Lawsuits Naming SBJ Lose Traction

Matt Wagner, SBJ ReporterSBJ has received some encouraging news on the legal front.

Two defamation lawsuits filed against SBJ last year in response to stories I wrote appear to be losing steam.

The first – filed by Tulsa, Okla., tax protester Lindsey Springer in December 2007 – was recently dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Hays. In her 22-page opinion, Hays rejected Springer’s claims that he was defamed by SBJ in a Nov. 26, 2007, story about two Branson-area businessmen being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for refusing to file federal income tax returns in the late 1990s.

After pleading guilty to the charges in July 2007, Shane Grady and Martin Dingman accepted a unique offer from the IRS to share their stories with local media outlets, including SBJ and radio shows in Branson and Springfield. Both men told SBJ they attended various seminars put on by anti-tax advocates, including Springer.

Springer, in turn, sued SBJ, Dingman, Grady, the IRS special agent who arranged the media engagements and me. We never thought his argument amounted to much, and we’re glad the judge agreed.

The second suit was filed by local home builder David Poppenga in April 2007. The suit took issue with a story SBJ published in February 2007 about an ongoing FBI investigation into alleged mortgage fraud schemes in the Springfield area. The article reported on higher-than-normal sale prices of homes built by Poppenga in Olde Ivy subdivision that were later foreclosed on by out-of-state lenders.

Poppenga hired high-profile attorney Bryan Wade, of Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP, to file the suit against SBJ. After more than a year and a half of inactivity, though, Wade withdrew from the case Oct. 1 – about a week after Poppenga Concrete Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It’s unclear if another attorney will appear on Poppenga’s behalf.

According to the bankruptcy petition, Poppenga Concrete owes more than $126,000 to Conco Cos. and about $64,000 to G&H Redi-Mix in Joplin. Poppenga is disputing a $400,000 claim from the Internal Revenue Service, court records show.


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