Well, after much fanfare — press releases flying around for more than 10 days — I was finally served with a summons and complaint from Mike Cholowsky late on Friday afternoon.
In the complaint, he says the statement in our story that he pled guilty to a conspiracy to defraud the United States is "completely false. Mr. Cholowsky never pled guilty nor was convicted of any felony involving an attempt to defraud the United States." Well the criminal docket in US. v. Cholowsky shows otherwise. He also labels "completely false" the statement that federal investigators charged Cholowsky's buddy, Joe Provenzano, with using Cholowsky's hauling permit to illegally dump hazardous waste in the Brookhaven landfill. Well, the federal indictment against Joe Provenzano says just that. And Provenzano, by the way, pled guilty to all 17 counts in that indictment. Then the complaint calls "false" the statement that Cholowsky "testified in 1999 that he paid bribes totalling $20,000 to Republican party leader John Powell for the right to dump at the town landfill in Yaphank." Well, the transcript of Cholowsky's testimony in mid-November 1999 at the criminal trial of John Powell says exactly that. And besides, Newsday reported all of these facts (numerous times) in its coverage of the Powell trial in 1999. Did Cholowsky sue Newsday?
Then the complaint accuses us of recklessness, malice and intent to harm, and claims damages of $2 million. It also seeks $10 million in punitive damages.
The complaint is "verified" not by the plaintiff, but by his attorney. Somebody's got to swear to the court that the allegations in the complaint are true, you know.
I can hardly wait to have this matter before a judge, so the plaintiff and his attorney can both explain how they can file a document with the court containing statements which so clearly controvert the public record.
If this isn't an attempt to shut me up, I don't know what is. But it isn't going to work. And our attorneys have been instructed to prepare a counterclaim alleging violation of our right to report this matter, as protected by Article 7 of the New York State Civil Rights Law. We will seek remedies to the fullest extent allowed by law, because this sort of action, known as a "SLAPP" suit, goes to the very heart of the role and function of the press in a free society. And we won't take that lying down.