Herald drops libel appeal, to pay $903,000

Story alleged ‘sexual acts’ at prison

The Boston Herald dropped its appeal and agreed to pay $903,000 to end a libel case stemming from a 2009 story alleging that a woman engaged in “sexual acts” with an inmate at a state prison in Bridgewater, according to the plaintiff’s attorney.

The $903,000 includes actual damages of $13,052, $550,000 in compensation for emotional distress, $13,000 in court costs, and $326,948 in interest.

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A jury ruled against the Herald in March, finding that the paper and one of its former reporters, Jessica Van Sack, recklessly published a false and defamatory story under the headline, “Sources: Fox aided beau in prison visit with killer.” The story alleged that state Rep. Gloria Fox was under state scrutiny for sneaking Joanna Marinova into the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, where Marinova engaged in “sexual acts” with a “killer con.”

At the time of Marinova’s victory in court, the Herald issued a statement indicating it would appeal the ruling. The Herald statement said the “article was entirely correct, from its headline to its last line….Lawsuits like the one filed here are serious threats not only to the rights of a free and robust press, but to the rights of the citizenry that expects, and depends upon, that free and robust press. The Herald fully expects to ultimately prevail in this matter.”

Officials at the Herald could not immediately be reached for comment. Van Sack, who is no longer working at the newspaper, declined comment. Megan C. Deluhery, an attorney at Todd & Weld who represented Marinova, said her client was not immediately available.