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Annapolis campaign dispute spurs defamation lawsuit

Justice System

A candidate for the Annapolis City Council has sued his opponent, his opponent's campaign organization and one of his opponents' supporters, claiming an e-mail and a campaign flier were defamatory.

Steven Conn, an independent candidate for the Ward 6 seat on the City Council, said he had filed suit against Democratic Alderman Kenneth Kirby, local political activist Charles Weikel and the Friends of Kenny Kirby in Anne Arundel Circuit Court on Wednesday. The case did not appear in online court records on Thursday morning, but Conn provided a copy to The Baltimore Sun and his attorneys confirmed it was filed.

In the lawsuit, Conn accuses Kirby and Weikel of portraying Conn as having a criminal record, when he has only traffic tickets and a charge of an open container in Baltimore that was dropped.

A Baltimore Sun review of court records found Conn has a handful of charges in Virginia including a speeding charge in 2006, a red light violation in 2004, a speeding charge in 2004 and a stop sign violation in 2000.

Conn was acquitted of a passing violation in Virginia in 2000 and an open container charge in Baltimore in 2005 was dropped by prosecutors, according to court records.

Conn's lawsuit cites an e-mail from Weikel that compares him to George Zimmerman and a Kirby campaign flier that states Conn resigned from the Annapolis Police Auxiliary due to "7 undisclosed charges."

In his lawsuit, Conn disputes the claim. "Plaintiff has never been 'arrested' and does not have '7 charges' or 'criminal records,'" the lawsuit states.

Conn is seeking at least $75,000 in compensatory damages and at least $75,000 in punitive damages. He also is asking for an injunction ordering the Kirby team not to make false or defamatory statements.

Conn declined to comment further on his lawsuit, but he said he is "legally protecting my name and reputation."

Kirby said he learned of the lawsuit on Thursday.

"I can't comment on that. I haven't seen it or been served. If he has filed, so be it. I don't think I've slandered him in any way," Kirby said.

Weikel also said he had not seen the lawsuit on Thursday.

The Annapolis election is Tuesday, with contested elections for mayor and four of the eight seats on the City Council.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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