Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Joe West Sues Paul LoDuca Over Bribery Claim

MLB umpire Joe West filed a lawsuit against Paul Lo Duca, alleging defamation after the former catcher in May purportedly asserted during a podcast that West accepted a bribe in exchange for favorable calls during a Mets game. West's complaint reads, "These statements impugn the integrity, honesty and professional fitness of Mr. West and affect his profession as a Major League Baseball umpire."

West's lawsuit against Lo Duca and The Action Network, a sports betting website that hosted or distributed the podcast, was filed in New York according to USA Today.

In May, we reported on Lo Duca's audio accusations against West, including claims that West ejected him "eight or nine" times, and that New York teammate Billy Wagner purportedly bribed West with the use of a car in exchange for favorable balls/strikes calls during a Phillies-Mets game ("I lend him my '57 Chevy so he can drive it around so then he opens up the strike zone for me"), finding that they might just be slanderous.
Related PostPants on Fire - Paul Lo Duca's Joe West Accusation (5/10/19).

Lo Duca's tall tales may be legally defamatory.
Fact Check - Wagner ClaimWe fact checked Wagner's appearances against Philadelphia from 2006 through 2009, when Wagner was on the Mets, and West made just one appearance: as a second base umpire on August 30, 2007, in Philadelphia. Ed Hickox was the home plate umpire for that game.

The complaint corroborates our research: "In reality, during 2006 and 2007, the two years that Lo Duca played for the New York Mets with Billy Wagner, Joe West was the home plate umpire for a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Mets only once, Billy Wagner did not pitch at all, and the game ended on a home run, not on called strikes."

Fact Check - Lo Duca Ejections: Of Lo Duca's eight career ejections, just one involved West (in 2003), and never before the game actually started, which was an allegation made by Lo Duca during the podcast.

Bill Spooner successfully sued the AP.
Precedent for Defamatory Litigation: In 2011, NBA referee Bill Spooner—who previously was a minor league baseball umpire—filed a lawsuit against The Associated Press alleging defamation over AP report Jon Krawczynski's allegedly libelous tweet during a January 24 game between the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. Krawczynski purportedly tweeted, "Ref Bill Spooner told [Wolves Head Coach Kurt] Rambis he’d ‘get it back’ after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That’s NBA officiating folks."

Spooner's suit alleged that Krawczynski, an AP reporter, reported the "get it back" statement as fact when it did not actually happen, triggering an NBA disciplinary investigation into Spooner's actions that tarnished his reputation.

In December 2011, the AP agreed to pay $20,000 in damages to Spooner to settle the lawsuit, and to remove the tweet from Krawcynski's account. In its settlement with Spooner, the Associated Press released a statement acknowledged that it "learned through discovery that referee Bill Spooner and coach Kurt Rambis have both consistently and independently denied that Mr. Spooner told the coach 'he'd get it back' in an exchange that occurred after a disputed call against the Timberwolves on Jan. 24, 2011."

The AP went on to explain it was a misunderstanding: "The NBA promptly investigated at the time and concluded that Mr. Spooner had acted properly...During the game, Mr. Krawczynski tweeted what he believed he had heard. Mr. Krawczynski acknowledges the possibility that he misunderstood what Mr. Spooner said and has therefore removed the Tweet from his APKrawczynski Twitter feed."

A $20,000 mistake... Krawczynski no longer works for the Associated Press.

West's lawsuit against Lo Duca seeks unspecified damages. The complaint is filed under case #160250/2019 in New York County Supreme Court as Joseph H West v. The Action Network, Inc. et al. Summons were issued to The Action Network and Paul Lo Duca.


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