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Katz drops defamation suit against Uniter

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Mayor Sam Katz

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Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz has dropped his defamation lawsuit against a student newspaper, saying he's satisfied its recently-published clarification clears the air.

"It’s exactly what I asked for," Katz said Friday of efforts made by the Uniter newspaper to clarify the intent of a volunteer writer's piece Katz had claimed sullied his reputation by implying he was a crook.

"It’s exactly what I asked for the first time they didn’t give me after I launched the suit," Katz said.

Court records show Katz's lawyer, Robert Tapper, has formally discontinued the claim for damages Katz launched in late January against the Uniter's parent company, the University of Winnipeg and volunteer writer Josh Benoit. "This will confirm this matter has now settled," a notice on the file states.

Benoit's short Dec. 4, 2013 article titled "The Local Political Blunder," referenced Katz, property-development company Shindico, ex-city Chief Administrative Officer and Katz's personal friend, Phil Sheegl, issues surrounding the construction of new Winnipeg fire halls and Martha Stewart.

The article also contained an imagined conversation between Katz and Sheegl.

"The plaintiff states... That the ordinary meaning of the words written by Benoit... Clearly state that the plaintiff is a criminal, had committed criminal acts pertaining to insider trading, belongs in jail and is evil," Katz's lawsuit claimed.

The Uniter took down the piece from its website after Katz initiated legal action.

As of Friday, it was listed as "no longer available."

The Uniter website also shows that on March 5, a "clarification" was published acknowledging the lawsuit and saying although it alleged Benoit's article accused Katz of being a criminal, that wasn't the intent of the piece.

"The column consisted of satirical commentary that did not accuse the Mayor of being a criminal but rather was intended to be a fair comment on a matter of public interest," the clarification states. "The Uniter regrets if anyone interpreted the column to be anything other than a satirical comment as stated," it adds.

Uniter managing editor Nicholas Friesen said he had no further comment.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

-- with files from Aldo Santin

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