Judge: Free Speech Protects Chicago Heights Campaign Ads
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS/WBBM) — A Cook County judge has decided that free speech rights protect political ads suggesting a mayoral candidate in Chicago Heights will allow drugs to be sold from City Hall.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports, the ads are being circulated by Chicago Heights mayoral candidate Joe Faso in print and on YouTube.
According to the lawsuit candidate David Gonzalez filed last week, the ads accused Gonzalez’s brother, Albert Gonzalez, of selling cocaine out of David Gonzalez’s accounting firm, Gonzalez & Associates PC, 2617 Chicago Road, South Chicago Heights.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports
“This is where Dave Gonzalez works,” a voiceover man in the YouTube ad says over a shot of Gonzalez’s accounting office on Chicago Road. “This is also where his brother worked, dealing cocaine and running a gang.”
Albert Gonzalez was convicted in 2005 of selling less than 15 grams of cocaine at 2619 Chicago Road, an address adjacent to the accounting firm, according to court records.
He was sentenced to three years’ probation.
“You might call it a full-service family business,” the voiceover says.
But it was one comment in the ad that really got to Gonzalez.
“But we don’t know what connections Gonzalez will bring with him into City Hall,” the voiceover says.
The mailings and videos also claim the city pays Gonzalez’s home mortgage, the lawsuit said.
In addition to stopping Faso from circulating the ads, Gonzalez sought to have Faso, campaign manager Alan Cottrell and the Integrity Party issue daily apologies and retractions in the SouthtownStar until Election Day, according to the lawsuit.
But Cook County Circuit Judge Carolyn Quinn on Wednesay denied Gonzalez’s request for a temporary restraining order to prevent Faso from circulating the ads. She ruled that Faso’s political mailings and videos are protected by the First Amendment.
“I knew it was a frivolous lawsuit to begin with,” Faso said. “It was propaganda on their part, and they knew what they tried to accuse us of wasn’t true. The best defense for a slander is the truth, and that’s what we expected the outcome to be.”
Faso also countersued Gonzalez on Monday for attorney fees and to have Gonzalez’s lawsuit dismissed.
Faso said Wednesday that Gonzalez “should apologize to the city of Chicago Heights for filing a frivolous lawsuit and acting the way he did publicly, acting like I did something wrong. It’s over. Now it’s Election Day.”
Faso, the 4th Ward alderman, also said it was a conflict of interest for Del Galdo Law Group to represent Gonzalez in the lawsuit because the firm does legal work for the city.
James Grogan, the chief council and deputy administrator for the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, wasn’t sure whether the scenario constituted a conflict of interest.
“As a general rule, lawyers who represent one client have to represent that client with independence and loyalty,” he said.
Gonzalez did not respond to messages left for him seeking comment.
The SouthtownStar contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire