Philbin says it’s not important to tell his readers the truth about the mayor
By James Mitchell
And in the beginning
It’s Sept. 29, 2021, and the Everett Leader Herald’s corrupt publisher, Josh Resnek, is emailing his good friend Andrea Estes, the former Boston Globe investigative reporter who was fired for miscounting the number of MBTA brass living out of state – or using false information from Resnek for her story on Mayor Carlo DeMaria – depending on whom you believe. Sadly, the Globe’s not talking. But on this day, as on many others, Resnek is fanning the acrid flames of lies in order to get the Globe on his side.
“It appears Mrs. [Margaret] Cornelio is ready to talk and wanting to talk – if you can imagine,” writes Resnek to Estes. “I am sure she is intimate with nearly whatever you will ask her and you must make sure you ask her about the emails she has read from the mayor to her son. I believe you two will work together nicely and from my vantage point, you will get from her what you need.”
Resnek brags to Estes, saying, “There is nothing like what I do in community journalism today.” The corrupt publisher wasn’t wrong – there has never been anything like what he did.
A month later, Resnek would text to Mrs. Cornelio that he would be placing a quarter page ad for her city councillor campaign in the next edition, which “will be distributed to every home.” “Let me know about Sergio giving Andrea [Estes] a call or her giving him a call. Thanks. The ad is on Matt [Philbin] and I – don’t pay attention to billing. Keep campaigning.”
During September, emails between Resnek and Philbin suggest that the two were providing the city clerk’s mother with free political ads for her campaign. In a Sept. 21, 2021, email from Resnek to Philbin and James Mahoney, the former page designer and photographer for the newspaper, Resnek states, “Matt – we’ve taken care of Mrs. Cornelio as suggested/directed.”
For Philbin and Resnek, they needed her son, City Clerk Sergio Cornelio, to work with them in order to embarrass the mayor – stating in their Sept. 2021 stories that Cornelio was extorted out of $96,000 in a real estate land deal, falsely claiming the mayor had nothing to do with the property sale and development, but wanted his money under threats to Cornelio’s clerk budget funding, among others.
For months leading up to the 2021 election, the allegations made by Resnek, along with fabricated quotes he wrote and attributed to the city clerk, claimed the mayor was strong-arming him over the Corey Street land deal. But early on, Resnek and Philbin were wining and dining Cornelio and his parents, particularly his mother, on separate dinner dates with Philbin and his brother Andrew, and again, with Estes in order to provide information about the mayor’s “extortion plot” against Cornelio. Resnek needed the Globe to amplify his lies in order to create what he described as a holocaust of the mayor’s reelection chances. Prior to the publication of the Sept. 2021 Corey Street land deal stories, Philbin, as well as Estes, were looking for the closing documents as well as a copy of the $96K check to use as the proverbial smoking gun that Cornelio failed to provide.
In his May 3, 2022, deposition, Cornelio testified that Resnek called him a couple of times, but never asked him any questions about the land deal with the mayor and never asked for any documents relating to the transaction. Cornelio stated that the quotes attributed to him in the articles were fabricated and that he never accused the mayor of extortion. “They weren’t mine,” testified Cornelio to the mayor’s attorney.
Cornelio testified that he never told anyone from the Leader Herald that the mayor was legally involved in the land deal but believed that Philbin and Resnek already knew, even stating that Resnek had told him that he knew of the mayor’s “general involvement” and that he had told Philbin that he sold the property to someone the mayor knew. Cornelio would later testify that Resnek, in an approximately six-minute meeting at his office, did all the talking, saying to Cornelio that the mayor was trying to be involved in the property deal. Asked why he didn’t just tell Resnek that the mayor was involved from the very beginning, Cornelio said that he didn’t get to say anything in that meeting with Resnek – “It was statements being made with me being – sitting there.”
Cornelio would eventually sell the property to a buyer brought by DeMaria, after deciding not to sell to three potential buyers – Greg Antonelli, Atty. Anthony Rossi and Guy Manganiello – saying he didn’t want to develop the property or take on developing partners. Antonelli offered only $1.2 million, according to Cornelio; conversations with Rossi never developed into anything; and Manganiello wanted to partner up. Then a buyer, Mr. Grossman, whom the mayor found, paid $1.3 million for the property.
What’s the truth got to do with it?
During Philbin’s third deposition, on Aug. 8, 2023, Atty. Jeffrey Robbins asked Philbin if he knew that a judge had ruled that the land deal between the mayor and Cornelio was indeed legitimate despite it being published to the contrary. At first Philbin denied knowing if his newspaper published articles that were untruthful, especially in pertinence to the land deal, until he was shown an exhibit of a March 11, 2022, copy of a memorandum and ruling by Middlesex Superior Court Associate Justice Hon. James Boudreau which declared the land deal between the mayor and Cornelio was legal.
Atty. Robbins asked Philbin to read the copy of the ruling by Judge Boudreau, which stated: “Based upon the content of the above referenced communications between the parties and Attorney O’Neil and the facts identified below, “the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that: (a) that the parties had a common interest in purchasing, developing and selling the property; and (b) O’Neil represented the parties jointly throughout before; during and after the transaction of said property.”
“So, my question is to you, Mr. Philbin, did the Everett Leader Herald ever inform its readers that the judge in this case had issued a decision stating that Mr. Cornelio and Mr. DeMaria had a common interest in purchasing, developing and selling Corey Street?” asked the attorney. “Has it done that or not?”
“I don’t know if it has or not. I don’t think so,” replied Philbin.
When asked if he ever gave instructions to Resnek, he stated that it was the first time he read the decision. “Did anybody show you a copy of this decision dated March 2022 before today?” asked Atty. Robbins.
“I don’t remember,” said the newspaper owner.
“So, the Leader Herald has never told its readers about this finding by a judge, correct?”
“It hasn’t spoken about the litigation at all,” replied Philbin.
Philbin was asked again if his readers should be informed about the decision, which would rebut the stories his newspaper wrote and published that contained inflammatory lies about the mayor and the land deal. Philbin remained steadfast in his claim that he would once the litigation – the defamation case is over – saying, “It’s just one piece of it; you can’t just do what some other newspapers do, put bits and pieces of that, sir.”
“Oh, because the Leader Herald has some strict standards about reporting, does it?” asked Robbins.
“Yeah. It’s… we’re talking about this here, so…when the litigation is over,” replied a stunned Philbin.
Asked if he was concerned about his readers finding out the truth, Philbin said he did, but since they were in the middle of litigation in the lawsuit, he didn’t want to taint it and that he’s sure they’ll read it in the Everett Advocate.
“Don’t you think you owe the readers of the Leader Herald the obligation to be truthful with them? We can agree on that, right?” asked Atty. Robbins.
“Yes,” replied Philbin.
Asked if his newspaper ever admitted to its readers that his publisher and editor admitted to fabricating articles about the mayor, manufactured notes and submitted false affidavits to a court, Philbin said it hasn’t.
Philbin was then asked about his sworn answers to the mayor’s interrogatories when the lawsuit was first filed while under approval of counsel – signed on Jan. 13, 2022.
Interrogatory answer #2, given under oath, was about his duties and responsibilities concerning the newspaper’s operation and publication. Philbin answered that he was not substantially involved in the operation or publication, according to the exhibit provided by Atty. Robbins.
Interrogatory answer #6 asked for the names, addresses and dates of employment of all Leader Herald employees in the past five years who have assisted Resnek in drafting, editing, revising or confirming the accuracy of any article concerning the plaintiff, Carlo DeMaria. Philbin’s answer stated that from time to time he shared information with Resnek regarding potential articles to be published but, “was not substantially involved” in the newspaper and its publication.
Atty. Robbins submitted Exhibit 11, a text dated Aug. 4, 2020, between himself and Resnek, which stated, “All articles still get sent to me and Elena and Kay. Thanks.” Elena Vega was his former director of operations, and Kay Donovan is his aunt, whom he stated worked for free but is also a partner in his marijuana company in Revere. Philbin confirmed that the text was his instructions to Resnek.
In a second exhibit marked Exhibit 12, the attorney showed Philbin a Nov. 24, 2020, email where Resnek writes to Philbin, “Matt, this is everything you need to see. We corrected the sacro [sic] ad with mistaken spelling of Jim Soper’s name.”
“A mistake which you had pointed out to Mr. Resnek in a prior draft, correct?”
“Yes. Correct,” stated Philbin.
In Exhibit 13, Resnek sends a text to Philbin on April 6, 2021, at 7:38 p.m. asking, “I am assuming we are all set?”
“You would typically let him know when you were okay with the newspaper being published, correct?” asked the attorney.
“Not all the time,” he replied.
In the next text, at 9:21 p.m., Philbin sends Resnek a text in response with a “thumbs-up” emoji. When asked for confirmation that it was his approval to Resnek to publish the edition, Philbin dismissed it as just an emoji reply.
Atty. Robbins followed-up with an April 13, 2021, text from Resnek at 6:44 p.m. stating, “You have the paper at MTP [a reference to Philbin’s email address]. It should have your approval.”
Philbin responds to Resnek 24 minutes later, “Looks good.”
Resnek replies, “Thank you. Strong paper.”
Strong paper indeed – for the mayor.