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De Falco v. Anderson

Decided: March 21, 1986.

ALBERT DE FALCO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JACK ANDERSON AND PARADE PUBLICATIONS, INC. (A FOREIGN CORPORATION NOT REGISTERED TO DO BUSINESS IN NEW JERSEY) DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.

King, Simpson and Scalera. The opinion of the court was delivered by King, P.J.A.D.

King

This appeal is taken from a directed verdict granted after presentation of the plaintiff's case in a libel action filed against columnist Jack Anderson and Parade Publications, Inc. R. 4:37-2. The allegedly defamatory article appeared in Parade Magazine on August 7, 1977.

Before trial, Judge Malech had ruled that plaintiff was a "public figure"; thus, proof of actual or New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964), malice was required. That point is not pursued on appeal by plaintiff. After presentation of plaintiff's case in October 1984, Judge Troast granted defendants' motions for involuntary dismissal. He basically found that plaintiff failed to present proof upon which the jury could have found actual malice.

Defendant Parade Publications, Inc. (Parade), is the publisher of Parade magazine, a nationally-distributed Sunday newspaper supplement. On August 7, 1977, the magazine's cover story which appeared across two inside pages of the publication was entitled, "The Shadow of the Mafia Over Our Government." The text of the article was written by defendant Jack Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist who also served as the magazine's Washington Bureau Chief. The final editing of the text, the selection of illustrations, the pictorial captions, the headlines, the subheadings and the article's layout in the magazine were controlled by the late Jess Gorkin, long-time editor of Parade.

The Parade article described the relationship between racketeers and government officials. It discussed, among other politicians, former New Jersey Congressman Henry Helstoski who had been investigated, and later indicted by a federal

grand jury, for collecting fees from aliens in return for introducing private bills in Congress to delay their deportation. The article recounts Helstoski meeting with racketeer Frank Peroff and how he asked Peroff to do some background "investigation" on some of the aliens who might testify against him, including one Oswaldo Aguirre. The article states that Peroff confirmed his meeting with Helstoski. The article notes that, according to Peroff, Helstoski wanted Peroff to bribe Chilean officials to fabricate shady pasts for the government witnesses and says they had even discussed murdering Aguirre.

A photograph of Albert DeFalco, shown conferring with his criminal defense attorney, appears under the article's headline. The caption underneath that photograph, which was the largest picture among the six photos appearing in the article's layout, stated

"Albert DeFalco (above left) confers with lawyer after being convicted of extorting $36,000 from illegal aliens in return for promoting bills to delay deportation. DeFalco was an aide to Congressman Henry Helstoski (right), who was voted out of office last year. . . ."

The caption then describes that Helstoski, who "continues to proclaim his innocence in the matter", had asked racketeer Peroff to check the backgrounds of the Chilean aliens who were expected to testify against the ex-Congressman.

The text of the 28-paragraph Parade article refers only once to DeFalco. That reference appears midway in the article

Then there is the curious case of Rep. Henry Helstoski (D., N.J.) who was narrowly voted out of Congress last year. In 1974, a federal grand jury began investigating charges that he had collected fees from illegal aliens in return for introducing private bills to delay their deportation. His former aide, Albert DeFalco, was convicted of shaking down the aliens for $36,000, but Helstoski has continued to proclaim his innocence.

The article then describes how Helstoski met with Peroff at Dulles Airport to propose the background "investigation" of the aliens and how the two discussed murdering the government's ...


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