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Robert Weller   Associated Press   13-May-2000   ADL may lose $10.5 million
"In 1994, Saul F. Rosenthal, director of ADL's Mountain States region, held a news conference accusing the Quigleys of anti-Semitism." Robert Weller

Jewish Group: Toss Out Damage Award

By Robert Weller
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, May 13, 2000; 6:38 p.m. EDT

DENVER Lawyers for the Anti-Defamation League are appealing a $10.5 million judgment against the organization for defaming a couple the ADL publicly accused of being anti-Semitic.

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, the ADL's Mountain States chairman, said the ADL will not be intimidated by the decision, even if it's upheld.

Even though $10.5 million is nearly a quarter of the ADL's worldwide budget of $45 million, "ADL does have the resources to pay whatever damages arise out of this case," he said.

"It's quite important that the Anti-Defamation League continues to pursue its mission and fight racism, bigotry, hatred, including anti-Semitism.  We've done so for 87 years and we will continue to do so."

On April 28, a U.S. District Court jury decided the organization had gone too far in accusing an Evergreen, Colo., couple of anti-Semitism.  The main evidence in the case turned out to be illegally recorded telephone conversations.

William and Dorothy Quigley and Mitchell and Candace Aronson had been neighbors and friends in the upscale mountain community of Evergreen, 15 miles west of Denver.  Their children played together.  But then the Aronson's large dog allegedly attacked the Quigleys' smaller dog, and a feud followed.

After a 1994 incident in which William Quigley drove toward Mrs. Aronson and swerved at the last moment, he pleaded no contest to reckless driving.

The Aronsons found they could pick up the Quigleys' cordless-phone conversations on their police scanner, then followed advice from local authorities to tape calls they felt were threatening.

During one call, Mrs. Quigley said she had considered painting an oven door on the Aronsons' home.  And the Aronsons said a reference to Nazi death camps terrified them.

Jay Horowitz, a lawyer for the Quigleys, called the remarks "banter."

In her trial testimony, Mrs. Quigley said her telephone comments were "sick" and that she regretted them.

In 1994, Saul F. Rosenthal, director of ADL's Mountain States region, held a news conference accusing the Quigleys of anti-Semitism.  He based his remarks on the taped conversations.

But the jury concluded those statements at the news conference and on the radio were defamatory and "not substantially true."

Lawyers for the Quigleys pointed out the recordings, which local prosecutors had urged, were illegal.  A federal law, passed shortly after the two families began feuding, banned the recording of cordless phone conversations.

Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas subsequently apologized to the Quigleys for filing hate crime charges against them, and his office paid $75,000 to settle a lawsuit.  The Quigleys also got a $350,000 settlement from the two lawyers who initially represented the Aronsons.  The Aronsons, now divorced, moved out of the neighborhood two years ago.

Lawyers for the Quigleys refused to comment and responded to the ADL filing its appeal on Friday by asking U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham to triple the damage award.  The judge took the motions under advisement.

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press


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