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Florida Supreme Court Refuses Case of Pastor Who Says He Was Defamed by TV Station

The Florida Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of a Florida pastor who claimed he was defamed by a Miami-area television station that broadcast reports about his business dealings.

Eric Readon, the pastor of the New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, Readon has been ordered to pay $70,000 in damages to the station, WPLG, home of Local 10 News.

Readon first filed a $12 million lawsuit against WPLG in 2017, then amended the suit several times until the amount he was asking for totaled $50 million, The Miami Daily Tribune reported.

The case stemmed from WPLG’s investigative reports that aired after several people told Local 10 News they had loaned Readon cash to rent homes, buy cars, and finance church events then were unable to get their money back.

Readon is not paid as a pastor and makes a living through business dealings, including property management and real estate swaps, per court documents.

WPLG learned from an informant and confirmed through public records that several of Readon’s previous business contacts, family members, and friends had filed lawsuits against him in connection with such business activities.

For example, the TV station reported that one 70-year-old alleged victim signed over the deed of his house to Readon so he could help him get loans for home improvements, then Readon sold the house for $380,000 without compensating the victim. The victim said he was more trusting of Readon because he was a pastor.

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Readon was referred to as a pastor and community leader during the stories and graphics that were broadcast included photos of him preaching in church, per the Daily Tribune. But Readon’s attorney said since Readon was not conducting business in his capacity as a pastor WPLG should not have referred to him as a pastor in the stories, even though he used the church address as his business address, the TV station reported.

Readon’s complaint claimed defamation and defamation by implication against WPLG, saying the reports on his business dealings damaged his reputation.

The Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County ruled that Readon was not defamed since all the statements he disputed were true except one, which had no bearing on the case. The Third District Court of Appeal rejected his challenge in April.

The case was then sent to the state Supreme Court for a potential hearing.

WPLG’s attorney Karen Kammer said the station spent approximately 250 hours of lawyer time “to try to get rid of a lawsuit that is based on a story that was absolutely true in every respect” and will now attempt to recover that money.

“Our reporting was accurate and there was absolutely no doubt about it. This case never should have been filed,” Kammer said.

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.