Deposition ordered over Vasquez fake news lawsuit
The judge’s ruling paves the way for the identities of Hews’ sources to be disclosed during the deposition
The complaint filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles (Case No. BC658053) earlier this year by Central Basin Municipal Water District Board Member Leticia Vasquez
Water Board official Leticia Vasquez claims Los Cerritos Community News publisher engaged in libelous campaign to defame her
LOS ANGELES – Today Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko ordered Los Cerritos Community News publisher Brian Hews to sit for a deposition in a libel lawsuit that claims he engaged in a relentless campaign to defame a local public official by publishing fabricated, false, and misleading stories about her.
In addition, the judge’s ruling paves the way for the identities of Hews’ sources to be disclosed during the deposition.
The complaint filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles (Case No. BC658053) earlier this year alleges that since 2012, publisher Brian Hews and Los Cerritos Community News engaged in a relentless campaign to defame the former mayor of Lynwood and current Central Basin Municipal Water District Board member Leticia Vasquez by publishing fabricated, false and misleading stories about her.
Because of the high standard of proof required in a libel action by a public official in the state of California, Vasquez had refrained from filing a defamation action until Hews finally crossed the line on June 26, 2016, when he published what she called “a totally fabricated story” explicitly stating that she had attempted extortion, demanded bribes, and was engaged in a pay-to-play scheme selling her vote for money.
“This ruling is an important step towards accountability, and it paves the way for truth to come out,” said attorney Nana Gyamfi. “These allegations are totally false and made up out of thin air by Mr. Hews who is engaged in a conspiracy with Ms. Vasquez’s political adversaries to ruin her public and political reputation and to destroy her electability as a public official.”
At the time of the initial publication of the article titled “Central Basin Director Leticia Vasquez and Montebello Councilwoman Vanessa Delgado Attempted to Extort Money From Cook Hills Officials,” Vasquez was running for reelection in the Nov. 8, 2016, General Election.
The article was allegedly published with the intention of damaging, hurting, ruining, and/or otherwise destroying Vasquez’s chances for reelection while increasing the circulation and sales of Los Cerritos Community News by “knowingly and intentionally publishing outlandishly provocative, notorious, sensational and inflammatory false statements about her.”
The story stated that Delgado and Vasquez met with Cook Hills Properties officials, the developer of Montebello Hills residential units, and then stated: “ … with Vasquez reportedly demanding money in a pay-to-play scheme for her vote on an upcoming Central Basin project.”
Additionally, the article alleged, “…Vasquez demanded campaign donations in exchange for her yes vote on a $552,000 Central Basin contract with Cook.”
“The truth is that Ms. Vasquez never attempted to commit extortion,” Gyamfi said. “Ms. Vasquez never demanded any money or contributions for her vote. Ms. Vasquez never engaged in a pay-to-play scheme, and Ms. Vasquez never offered her vote in exchange for any type of campaign contribution, payment or compensation. Ms. Vasquez never engaged in any misconduct or inappropriate behavior whatsoever, directly or indirectly, as described in Hews’ article.”
Vasquez is demanding judgment against Hews and Los Cerritos Community News for general damages, special damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.
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