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Whither Jeff Greene’s lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Times?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The last week of April has come and gone without a trial on billionaire Jeff Greene‘s libel suit against the Tampa Bay Times.

“We have a trial date set for the end of April,” Times attorney Alison Steele told last month.

With no trial, is a settlement in the offing?

Greene already settled last month with The Miami Herald, the Times’ co-defendant in the case. The terms of that arrangement weren’t disclosed.

On Friday, Steele was mum and didn’t return calls.

Greene’s attorney, Lin Wood of Atlanta, was not in the office Friday.

Coincidentally, the trial had been scheduled the week before the Times’ purchase and closure of its cross-bay rival, The Tampa Tribune.

On Friday, The Associated Press reported the paper still wasn’t saying what it paid for the Trib.

But the Times reported Wednesday it took on about $13.3 million in new debt just before the purchase, according to a mortgage filed Wednesday in Pinellas County … The new mortgage is the latest installment of financing the Times has taken out over the past three years with Crystal Financial of Boston. The Times now owes Crystal $18 million, the Times reported.

Greene, a Palm Beach real estate developer, ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2010. The seat eventually was won by current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Greene has claimed that both newspapers derailed his Senate campaign with their reporting of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht.

Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary.

According to a New York Times account, one story insinuated that former boxer Mike Tyson – best man at Greene’s wedding – had used drugs on the yacht.

The Tampa Bay Times later ran a rare front-page clarification, with Tyson saying he did not use drugs on Greene’s yacht.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge had dismissed Greene’s suit in 2012, saying he couldn’t “prove the paper acted in malice,” a legal standard in libel actions brought by public figures.

Greene would have to show the Times and Herald knew their stories were wrong or that they had a “reckless disregard” of whether their reporting was false or not.

An appellate court reversed the judge’s decision and revived the suit, saying Greene’s claims were “legally sufficient” to move forward.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at [email protected]

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