IFAS | Freedom Writer | July/August 1998 | libel.html

Porteous wins libel case

Pittsfield, Massachusetts — The Berkshire Superior Court ruled in Skipp Porteous’s favor in a libel case brought by Andrew Sansone in January 1997. The suit arose over an article Porteous wrote for Berkshire Jewish Voice in December 1996. Titled, "Extremists organizing in the Berkshires," the front-page story reported on a meeting at the Berkshire home of Sansone in which Eustace Mullins, a Holocaust denier, was the guest speaker.

The article also mentioned that Sansone was an avid follower of Pastor Pete Peters, a Colorado-based Christian Identity minister, and that Sansone had spent time with Peters in the West.

A subscriber to Jewish Voice sent a copy of the article to all the Christian clergy in the area, hoping to raise their awareness. One recipient, the Rev. Jerry Scott of Calvary Christian Chapel in Great Barrington, gave the article to Sansone, who sometimes attended his church. Sansone then sued Skipp Porteous and the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires for libel.

In a motion for summary judgment, the court ruled in favor of the defendants, because there was no genuine dispute as to the fact that the allegedly libelous portions of the article were true.

In his research for the article, Porteous learned from 1995 divorce documents filed in Berkshire Superior Court, that Andrew Sansone possessed a number of weapons, including nine AR-15 assault rifles, a .308 Springfield sniper rifle, "several" 9mm handguns, a five-shot shotgun, a 7mm Browning rifle, and a Walther .380 caliber pistol. Also, at the time he filed the suit, Sansone was a student at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The story upon which the lawsuit was based was the first of a regular series of articles Porteous was asked to write for Berkshire Jewish Voice. A second article was published before the suit was filed. After the lawsuit, Porteous was suspended as a writer for Berkshire Jewish Voice.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.