MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Case dismissed!
Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Alexander Bokor has dismissed a $50 million lawsuit filed by a Miami Gardens pastor against WPLG TV.
“We are pleased we have been vindicated. We reported the truth about plaintiff and the experiences the people who appeared in our reports had with him, and the court agreed," said Bert Medina, President and CEO of WPLG Inc.
But Medina said it’s not over yet.
"We will be asking the court to order plaintiff to pay our attorney’s fees. We are committed to defending our First Amendment rights to inform the public by reporting on what happens in our community and beyond, and we will continue to do so vigorously,” Medina added.
Pastor Eric D. Readon, of The New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, in Miami Gardens, filed the defamation suit on June 4, 2017.
Readon has been the focus of several Local 10 News investigative stories beginning in 2017. (links below)
Several people had come forward accusing Readon of wrongdoing.
“This case arises in connection with WPLG’s reporting on the business practices of Plaintiff, a self-described community leader and local pastor, the concerns expressed by citizens with whom Plaintiff has had business dealings, and the lawsuits which those citizens filed against Plaintiff related to such business dealings,” wrote Bokor in his March 6 order.
Bokor’s order came after a special hearing Feb. 13.
Readon filed suit against WPLG TV claiming what was reported in three TV news stories and online in 2017 was not true and hurt his reputation.
But the judge’s order found what WPLG TV reported was true.
“Plaintiff’s pleading is devoid of any actionable statement. Rather, the statements about which he complains are true, many by his own admission. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges defamation based on WPLG’s reporting of facts admitted in the pleadings or in public records of which this Court takes notice (and is otherwise uncontested),” Bokor wrote.
In fact, several of the people who have appeared in Local 10 News stories have gotten judgments against Readon.
In one case, Readon was ordered to pay a victim, Lorenzo Johnson, $9,000, plus interest, after Readon allegedly stole a check out of Johnson’s daycare office, forged it and deposited it back in 2012.
In another case, Broward County Judge Daniel Kanner ordered Readon to pay $3,000, plus interest, to LaTasha Blue for failing to deliver a car he was allegedly selling her. Blue said despite the judgement, she hasn’t been paid.
According to Readon’s lawyer, Andrew Kassier, Local 10 News referred to Readon as a “pastor” in the stories.
Kassier told the judge that Readon was not acting in his capacity as a pastor in his business dealings.
“Incredibly, Plaintiff’s counsel’s main argument at the hearing was that WPLG’s description of Plaintiff as a “pastor” somehow evidences WPLG acted with actual malice because when Plaintiff was engaged in the allegedly wrongful or fraudulent acts that formed the basis of the report, he was acting as an individual, not a pastor,” Bokor wrote.
“Unsurprisingly, Plaintiff offered no support for this novel argument. Accordingly, there can be no defamation based on Defendants’ including the admitted fact that Plaintiff is a pastor with a congregation in its reporting,” Bokor added.
Readon also sued all the people who came forward and talked to Local 10 News for defamation. That portion of the case is still pending.
Attorneys Lawrence Shapiro and Eric Scott Brumfield have also represented Readon in this case.
While Readon’s attorney claims he’s not acting as a pastor in business dealings, state records show that Readon uses his church’s address as the mailing and principal addresses for those personal businesses.
The church is located at 2125 NW 155th St. in Miami Gardens.
State records show Rainbow Financial Group LLC, Blackrain City Capital Investment LLC and Worldwind Investment Group LLC all use the church as their principal address.
Readon’s wife, Lakeisha, a Miami-Dade County school teacher, is also listed as a manager and/or vice president in those companies.
According to court records in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, there are currently five open cases against Readon and Worldwide Investment Group.
Jannett Spence is currently suing Readon, his wife Lakeisha, BlackRain Capital Investment and Worldwind Investment Group in Broward County for illegally taking a home she owned in Davie by lying and altering a deed to that house.
A hearing is set in that case for April 6.
Bokor’s order dismissed the case against WPLG TV “with prejudice”.
In the legal world, a court case that is dismissed with prejudice means that it is dismissed permanently.
“The Judge’s Order is currently being appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal. No further comment at this time,” Readon’s attorney, Andrew Kassier, said.
More Eric Readon headlines on Local 10 News:
Eric Readon headlines on The Miami Times:
Eric Readon video on accusations against him.