Carlo DeMaria, Jr. vs. Everett Leader Herald, LLC
Attorneys for Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s defamation lawsuit were back at it with their questioning of Everett Leader Herald newspaper publisher’s self-proclaimed “wordsmith” Joshua Resnek at the law offices of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP in Boston on June 23.
In the second of a series of videotaped depositions, according to Resnek – already admitting to fabricating remarks made from a six to eight-minute interview with Everett City Clerk Sergio Cornelio of a commercial property deal by Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Jr. and Cornelio – with Leader Herald owner Matthew Philbin he created a series of stories aimed at destroying Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s reputation and chances of reelection in the 2017 primary and general election.
In the opening round, Resnek was again asked about his limited liability company, Chelsea Press LLC, a company he set up without his name being stated as the owner, where he would receive payment from Dorchester Publications, Matthew Philbin’s company which owns the Leader Herald, as well as payments from another vendor, Passport Parking, a vendor of the City of Boston. According to Resnek, the monies didn’t go to him personally, but to the company, which allowed him to pay his business expenses. Resnek claimed that being paid by Philbin through his Chelsea Press LLC saved the newspaper 15% or so in taxes that would have to be taken out of his salary.
“So, the monies don’t go to you personally,” asked Atty. Jeffrey Robbins, representing DeMaria. “They get deposited into an LLC which does not identify you as the owner but you own?” “Yes,” stated Resnek.
The questioning returned back to Resnek’s relationship with City Clerk Sergio Cornelio, which, according to Resnek, began in 2017 when he started working for Philbin and the Leader Herald. Robbins asked him if he was aware of Cornelio’s mental and emotional state, if he knew he suffered from depression and anxiety, and that he had a two-month-old child.
“You told people in Sept. of 2021 that he [Cornelio] was suffering quite dramatically from anxiety and depression, correct?” asked Robbins. “You knew he was susceptible to pressure.” “Yes,” said Resnek.
Robbins asked him if he thought Cornelio was susceptible to being pressured into making statements; Resnek agreed. “You actually urged people to pressure Mr. Cornelio into making statements about Mr. DeMaria, correct?” “That’s correct,” replied Resnek.
Resnek said he urged people to pressure Cornelio into speaking out against the mayor, but not in a coercive way.
Robbins offered a rebuttal with Exhibit 12, which showed an email exchange which took place on Sept. 14, 2021, between Resnek and Andrea Estes of The Boston Globe where Resnek points out to Estes that Cornelio’s emotional and mental state could be used to her advantage. “Let’s see what we can do. Don’t be afraid to pressure Sergio, but keep in mind he suffers from anxiety and depression rather dramatically. He must be pushed or you will get nothing from him,” writes Resnek to Estes,
“And these are e-mails that you wrote to this person back and forth on September 13th, correct?” asked Robbins. “Yes, sir,” replied Resnek.
Resnek published his first story about the commercial property deal in the Leader Herald on Sept. 8 – a story that falsely claimed that Mayor DeMaria coerced and extorted $97,000 from Cornelio. Resnek, in his previous June 3 deposition, stated he didn’t have any proof that Cornelio was forced to pay the mayor or that he was illegally involved in the property deal. Resnek would explain that the only information he actually did have was that the Corey Street sale has taken place through the Registry of Deeds and that he never went to any City Hall departments, attorneys or bank officials to obtain the public information despite his claims of being an Emmy-winning investigative reporter.
Asked if it bothered him that he was putting pressure on the city clerk despite the fact that Cornelio was suffering from anxiety and depression, Resnek stated that he wasn’t a doctor but he needed the information to write articles about the mayor. “And that was a desire you knew Mr. Philbin had, correct? asked Robbins. “Yes,” said Resnek.
Resnek stated the importance of obtaining information from Cornelio as he believed he (Cornelio) was the “keeper of all the mayor’s secrets.” When asked to explain, Resnek, now appearing desperate, stated that the mayor was involved in a sexual harassment complaint, claiming the story, which detailed an assault, came from Cornelio.
When he was asked if he had any notes from the interview, Resnek said he did not.
Resnek also claimed he knew the case had been dismissed for lack of probable cause but still wrote in the Sept. 15 edition of the Leader Herald a story detailing the Revere police report in spite of knowing it was 14 years old. “Did you write that it had been dismissed for lack of probable cause?” asked the attorney. “No, I didn’t,” responded Resnek.
Resnek admitted writing the article just before the primary.
Asked if he was ever accused of sexual harassment, Resnek replied, “never in a specific way in court.” “You have been accused of sexual harassment, correct?” asked Robbins. “I think, yes,” replied Resnek.
The attorney asked about the inflammatory article called “Eye on Everett.” Resnek wrote that in the Revere police report it was “well known” that DeMaria held a knife against the throat of a person, but when shown the police report, Resnek couldn’t find anywhere in the report that a knife or scissors was mentioned. In fact, the complainant never reported to police that a knife was placed against their throat. Resnek then admitted that he never informed the readers that the charges were thrown out by the court, but instead he teased the readers about an upcoming story about the mayor where he was going to “lay it all out” through his fictitious character “The Blue Suit.”
Circling back to the Corey Street property deal between the mayor and the city clerk, Robbins questioned Resnek over his interview about the property sale, asking him to confirm that he only had one conversation in Aug. 2021 with Cornelio prior to the publication of his two Sept. 2021 stories. Resnek confirmed as such and said their conversation might have lasted approximately seven to eight minutes. “And you had a notepad on you for some reason?” asked Robbins. “Well, I’m a reporter,” replied Resnek despite having to deliver newspapers, according to Resnek, to 50 stops that day.
“And there are no contemporaneous notes of any conversation you had about Corey St., correct?” “That is correct, sir.” Resnek stated that any notes he made from the conversation were made outside the city Clerk’s Office.
When asked if he ever read any documents pertaining to the Corey Street property sale, the state ethics committee opinion, city clerk records of the mayor’s interest in the property, or any records of public record before he wrote the inflammatory Sept. 2021 articles about the mayor’s involvement in the transaction, Resnek stated he had not. Instead, Resnek claimed his “partner” Matthew Philbin had read them.
When asked if Mr. Philbin ever sought information from the City Clerk’s Office to ascertain if the mayor had filed a public disclosure of interest or sought an opinion of the state ethics commission in the Corey Street property, Resnek stated, “no.”
In fact, according to Resnek’s testimony, neither he nor Philbin ever pursued any information relevant to the Corey Street property sale – state ethics commission opinions, emails and texting between DeMaria and Cornelio with respect to bank financing, information from anyone else regarding financing of the property, the sellers of the property, or any parties affiliated with the property – prior to publishing their Sept. 2021 stories leading up to the elections.
Resnek claimed that he made an effort to ascertain what the mayor’s role was in the sale of the property, saying he spoke to a wide variety of people who had knowledge in the deal, but not one single word of the alleged conversations was written down in his reporter’s notebook. “Do you have the actual notes that you wrote down?” questioned Robbins. “Probably not,” replied the intrepid reporter.
Resnek then admitted that all his “Blue Suit” articles he wrote were complete fabrications, claiming he “usually” has a disclaimer that the pieces are discussions between him and The Blue Suit. “Did you tell your readers that these “discussions” are complete fabrications…?” asked Robbins. “I think my readers are intelligent enough to make that distinction,” replied Resnek.
Resnek insisted that the Blue Suit articles are a writer’s column – placed in the editorial page. When asked if he thought the readers understood that it was fiction, Resnek said, “One would only hope”.
When asked again about the disclaimer, Resnek said he didn’t see them in his articles shown to him during the deposition, but said he has it on his computer.
Resnek said he doesn’t use the words “fiction” or “made up” to his readers regarding the Blue Suit columns – or any other type proclaiming that its work of fiction. Instead, Resnek reads a headline from the column, “Josh Resnek reading to the mayor’s Blue Suit from an official Revere police report.”
Resnek felt that someone would have to be insane to not understand that it was fiction.
But in rebuttal, the attorney showed Resnek a headline that states “Revelations we cannot quite believe about the mayor, but they’re all true.” “You’re actually saying this is true, right?” asked Robbins. “It’s an editorial comment,” said Resnek.
Asked why he would tell the reader that it’s “all true” – if you’re simultaneously saying that its fabrication – Resnek replied that he didn’t think the Blue Suit would lie to him.
In one particular Blue Suit column, Resnek describes details in a five-page Revere police report, making accusations against the mayor which never appeared in the actual report.
Resnek admitted that he fabricated every Blue Suit piece. “Every single Blue Suit piece that you wrote is totally made up, right?” “Yes sir,” replied Resnek.
Next week: Sources revealed – or accused.