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Judge: Lee Enterprises not liable in Malin civil trial

Judge: Lee Enterprises not liable in Malin civil trial

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A judge has decided there is no evidence Lee Enterprises Inc., the parent company of the Quad-City Times, was liable in a civil lawsuit brought by former Davenport city administrator Craig Malin. 

Judge Henry Latham granted the company’s motion for a directed verdict after Malin’s attorneys, Richard Pundt and Larry Thorson, rested their case Wednesday, the eighth day of the trial in Scott County District Court.

A directed verdict happens when a trial judge finds in a defendant's favor before the case goes to the jury, ruling the claimant failed to produce enough evidence to prove its case.

In his ruling, Latham said Malin “failed to establish the elements necessary” to prove Lee Enterprises “intentionally and improperly” interfered with his contract as city administrator, leading to his ouster.

Latham denied similar motions for the remaining defendants — the Times, columnist Barb Ickes and former reporter Brian Wellner — and the jury will decide the case against them.

"I do believe that this is a fact question that must be addressed as to the publications for the jury to determine," Latham said.

Malin alleges the paper published "objectively and knowingly false" articles between June 18, 2015, and June 29, 2015, about him and a deal to pave a lot at the private Rhythm City Casino in Davenport. He alleges the paper and the authors of the articles, Ickes and Wellner, intentionally interfered with his contract as city administrator, and led to his departure.

The city council ended Malin's 14-year tenure in June 2015. His separation agreement included severance payments and other compensation that could have reached $310,000, depending on when he found another job. It also required Malin to forgo legal claims against the city.

Malin was hired as city manager in Seaside, Calif., in December 2015.

The trial began Sept. 23. Closing arguments are slated for Thursday.

Lee Enterprises, the Times, Ickes and Wellner are represented by attorneys Ian Russell and Abbey Furlong. 


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