United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
G. Carr Sr. U.S. District Judge.
libel case arises out of a newspaper article about plaintiff
Matthew Smith's arrest.
June, 2016, police in Sandusky, Ohio arrested Smith on a
charge of felony theft.
local newspaper, the Sandusky Register, recounted the arrest
in article titled “Man steals $22k from rental
business.” The article reported that Smith allegedly
stole checks from his employer, directed someone else to cash
them, and obtained the cash. It also included the arresting
officer's statement that Smith “basically duped
[someone] into cashing checks - he took advantage of
him.” (Doc. 19 at ¶43).
soon dismissed the charge, and the Register eventually
modified the online version of the article to read
“Shiloh man charged for $22k theft.” In
September, 2017 - after Smith filed this lawsuit - the
newspaper published an article about the dismissal of
now alleges that the original and modified articles libeled
him, the former because it definitively stated he committed a
theft and the latter because it did not explain that
prosecutors dismissed the charge. He also brings claims for
intentional infliction of emotional distress and injunctive
is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
is the defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). (Doc. 24). For the following reasons, I grant the
recounted the facts underlying Smith's arrest in my prior
order. See Smith, supra, 2018 WL 1315155 at
*1-2. In brief, Smith's employer discovered that someone
had improperly cashed seven company checks worth $22, 000.
Two witnesses - Young and Shipman - pinned the crime on
Smith; Sandusky police accepted their claim and arrested
Smith. In fact, substantial evidence - ignored without
explanation by the arresting officer - suggested Young and
Shipman were the likely culprits.
16, 2016, the Register published the “Man steals $22k
from rental business” article in the print version of
its newspaper and on its website. (Doc. 24-2 at 1). Defendant
Courtney Astolfi wrote the article, and defendant Matthew
Westerhold edited it. (Doc. 19 at ¶¶40-41).
article stated that:
An employee of a Sandusky rental company was arrested Tuesday
for allegedly stealing $22, 000 from the business.
Matthew Smith, 44, of Shiloh, was charged with one
fourth-degree felony count of theft.
Smith allegedly orchestrated the theft of $22, 000 from Davis
& Pinchot Investments over the course of five months this
He was employed as a maintenance worker at the company, which
owns several rental properties in the city of Sandusky, said
Sandusky police Detective John Powell.
Smith allegedly entered a company safe and stole seven checks
between January and May, all of which had already been signed
by the owner in order to pay bills, according to police.
Each check, worth between $2, 000 and $4, 000, was
Police said Smith used two men in order to execute the plot.
“He basically duped a tenant into cashing the checks;
he took advantage of him, ” Powell said. “And
that (tenant} was driven to the bank by another subject, who
the suspect later tried to pin it on.” Through their
investigation, detectives were able trace [sic] the
thefts back to Smith, despite him allegedly using the others
to cash the checks.
A warrant was issued, and Smith was arrested on it Tuesday
When officers questioned him at the Sandusky police station,
Smith did not admit to the thefts.
He was taken to the Erie County jail, but posted bond and has
since been released.
(Doc. 24-2 at 1) (brackets in original).
months after Smith's arrest, prosecutors dismissed the
theft charge due to lack of evidence. (Doc. 19 at ¶46).
manager, Jared Davis, called Astolfi and asked her to redact
the article about Smith because “it was untrue and
harming [Smith's] and DPI's reputation in the local
community.” (Id. at ¶47). Astolfi
allegedly responded that “she was aware of the
dismissal and would update the story to reflect that the
charges had been dismissed.” Instead of doing so,
Astolfi caused the newspaper to publish “an ...