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Libel suit seeks $50 million from newspaper


A Bel Air woman has filed a $50 million libel suit against The Aegis, claiming the Harford County weekly newspaper defamed her by falsely portraying her as a criminal after she complained that a police officer harassed her for protesting.

Ann M. Murtha of the 400 block of Linwood Ave. claimed two civil court summaries, printed Jan. 22 and 29, 1992, harmed her professional standing as founder and president of "The International Society for Citizens Against Dental and Medical Malpractice."

Ms. Murtha's suit says the five-paragraph summaries identified her but not the Bel Air Police Department when she sued to try to force the department to release records of an internal investigation into her complaint.

In the suit, filed Friday, Ms. Murtha said she was peacefully protesting on a public sidewalk outside a dental office when a Bel Air police officer harassed her. The suit doesn't say what she was protesting or when.

That incident led to her filing a complaint with the police department.

Department investigators concluded the officer acted properly, but Ms. Murtha said she was denied a copy of an investigative re- port.

Court records show that Ms. Murtha won her civil complaint against the Bel Air Police Department and received a copy of the department's internal report.

She received no damages, other than the $25 she had spent to file the complaint.

Ms. Murtha claimed the first of the two newspaper articles did not adequately reflect that legal victory and the second article, on her losing an appeal for damages, made it seem as if she were the defendant.

Neither Ms. Murtha nor Aegis officials could be reached for comment yesterday.

The suit names two officers and two employees of Homestead Publishing Co., which publishes the newspaper, as defendants.

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