Jury sides with newspaper in police officer defamation case

April 6, 2022 GMT

BIDDEFORD, Maine (AP) — A Maine jury has sided with a media company in a lawsuit over newspaper stories about sex abuse allegations involving a former police captain.

The case stemmed from articles that were published in the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Courier seven years ago. Retired Biddeford police captain Norman Gaudette and his wife, who sued in 2015, sought damages for claims that included defamation.

Court records state that the jurors last month didn’t think the Gaudettes proved the allegations in the articles were false, the Portland Press Herald reported. The Gaudettes are appealing the verdict to the state’s highest court.

Gaudette was investigated over two decades ago, but never criminally charged. He has long denied the allegations against him.

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Cynthia Counts, an Atlanta-based attorney who represented the defendants, said Tuesday that the Gaudettes “not only sued the newspaper but the reporters individually in an attempt to scare them and to chill their speech.” Counts said the jury’s ruling exonerates the newspaper.

The Courier is owned by Mainely Media, which was acquired by the owner of the Press Herald in 2018.