Judge weighing whether to dismiss $50 million defamation suit against The Eagle

Craig C. Gaetani

PITTSFIELD — A judge is weighing whether to dismiss a $50 million dollar defamation lawsuit against The Eagle, its publisher and one of its reporters, filed by former City Council candidate Craig C. Gaetani.

Judge John Agostini heard arguments in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday from Gaetani and attorney David Valicenti regarding The Eagle's motion to dismiss the suit.

Gaetani, 69, of Pittsfield, claims information published in an Oct. 24, 2017, article, which covered a candidates' forum, defamed him and was likely what cost him the election.

Specifically, Gaetani took offense at the final two paragraphs of the story in which reporter Amanda Drane documented an encounter between Gaetani and an individual who recommended that he not drive home, saying he smelled alcohol on Gaetani's breath.

In Gaetani's suit, he acknowledged the incident in the parking lot happened as Drane reported.

Valicenti argued for the suit to be dismissed, noting Gaetani's complaint reiterates that Drane's reporting was accurate; that due to his position as a City Council candidate at the time, he was a public figure and thus held to a higher standard of libel in which actual malice has to be demonstrated; and Gaetani's claim the article would cost him the election was mere speculation.

Gaetani, who identified himself during the hearing as both a journalist and a physicist and made at least two mentions of the city's water plant, which he says he had a hand in developing, claims he didn't know the men who approached him in the parking lot after the meeting and suggested some type of collusion between them and The Eagle.

He characterized the inclusion of the information as a "cheap shot."

Agostini said he is taking the matter under advisement and would render a decision as soon as possible.

Reach Bob Dunn at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.