Oh boy! Jeff Greene threatens lawsuit against St. Pete Times ***Updated***

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Maggie Haberman alerts that Jeff Greene, who’s been on the receiving end of extensive media scrutiny in his Florida race to be the Democrat challenging independent Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio, is vowing to sue the St. Petersburg Times if they don’t print a retraction this Sunday.

At issue is a Times story about Greene’s real estate transactions that ran over the weekend, and a subsequent editorial that delved into a project at the periphery of Death Valley. It’s a lengthy story and one that is better read undistilled. Greene’s own letter, filed by lawyer L. Lin Wood — who was involved in the JonBenet Ramsey case — is linked in a PDF.

The letter alleges that the paper had dozens of documents that it ignored and that it misreported facts. I’d recommend reading the story, then reading the letter.

But the letter demands a retraction of “equal” size to the original story in the Aug. 15 edition of the paper, or a lawsuit will follow. As I understand it, under Florida libel laws, the notice demanding a retraction is the first step toward a lawsuit, like a notice of claim.

From the letter: “The Times reporting falsely accuses an extremely successful businessman and viable candidate for high office of serious crimes. The resulting damage to my client’s reputation from this false reporting can only be measured in the many millions of dollars unless the Times immediately corrects its libel. Failure to do so will unquestionably lead to litigation in order to hold the Times accountable for its wrongdoing.”

The letter lists 21 statements in the two pieces it claims are “false and defamatory.” It’s also very long and legally aggressive letter  – again, I’d urge you to read the whole thing because a summary won’t quite do.

Reached for comment, the Times’s lawyer, Alison Steele, said, “The Times is studying Mr. Greene’s letter at this point. We’re not seeing anything that needs correcting. But we are studying the matter. I have alerted his attorney Mr. Wood to expect a response tomorrow. …The story’s based on public record. And the public record shows what it shows. And that’s what the Times reported. We’re certainly examining his allegations. But I’m not seeing it.”

Update – 5:04 p.m.:

Here’s what Times Editor and Vice President Neil Brown had to say in a statement:

The Times‘ coverage of Mr. Greene and his business transactions has been thorough and fair, and the reporting is well-documented in public records. Our story is accurate, balanced and we stand by it. Mr.Greene is welcome to submit a letter to the editor if he wishes to take further exception.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.