'Predator' Is Ruled Opinion; Daily News Avoids Lawsuit
Manhattan Acting Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by a Bronx intermediate school teacher against the New York Daily News over a headline that implied the teacher was a "sex predator."
The teacher, Peter Rosado, was fined $10,000 following a disciplinary investigation for conduct including touching students inappropriately and making sexual comments to them. On June 23, 2013, the Daily News ran an article under the headline, "Sex predators remain in NYC schools thanks to discipline system, group finds." The article said that teachers found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct through disciplinary proceedings are sometimes allowed to remain in their jobs. It included Rosado as an example, with his picture.
Rosado claimed in his lawsuit that it was defamatory to call him a "sex predator." Engoron, however, said the term was an expression of opinion.
"Statements like 'convicted felon,' or 'HIV positive' or '20-weeks pregnant" have objective, verifiable meaning; 'sex predator' does not," he said.
Rosado also argued that the Daily News misled readers by not mentioning in the article that some charges against him were not sustained.
Engoron said that it was wrong to expect that level of thoroughness from the Daily News because "nobody would mistake the Daily News for the Harvard Law Review."
Vincent Pallaci of Kushnick Pallaci, who represents Rosado, said his client had not decided whether to appeal and declined to comment further.
The Daily News is represented by its general counsel, Matthew Leish.
The case is Rosado v. Daily News, 157674/13.