SARASOTA, FLORIDA, May 14, 2014 – Sarasota real estate lawyer Anne Weintraub (www.anneweintraub.com) has sued the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for libel over a front-page article that accused Weintraub of defrauding her bank in connection with personal real estate loans in 2005 and 2006. In the article, the Herald-Tribune alleged that Weintraub “simultaneously claimed” multiple properties as her primary residence in order to get more favorable loan terms. In fact, the mortgages were obtained over a 15-month period and each mortgage excused the primary residence requirement if the bank waived it or if there were extenuating circumstances. The newspaper was aware of these mortgage provisions, had no information about any waiver by the bank or any extenuating circumstances affecting Weintraub, but printed the article accusing Weintraub of fraud anyway.
Weintraub warned the newspaper that the charge of mortgage fraud was false and that they should not print the article. The impact has been devastating, Weintraub said. “My real estate practice is based largely on referrals from people in the real estate field who trust me. The trust that I have earned and built over the past ten years has been shattered by this horrible and baseless claim,” Weintraub noted. “My personal and professional reputations have been damaged beyond calculation. I have been shamed and humiliated more than I can even describe,” she added.
Weintraub’s attorney, Richard A. Harrison, called the newspaper’s conduct “a breathtakingly reckless act of journalistic malpractice.” “The arrogance here is really astounding,” Harrison said. “No private citizen is obligated to discuss her personal life or financial matters with the media simply because the media demands it as part of some witch hunt.” “These people tried to get confidential financial information from Weintraub’s bank. They badgered and bullied Weintraub for weeks trying to get her to talk about intimate details of her private life and her personal finances, and when she refused, as most of us would, they defamed her on the front page.”
The lawsuit demands damages of at least $25 million from the Herald-Tribune and the reporters, editors and others who participated in the publication of the libelous article. The case is Weintraub v. Halifax Media Group, LLC, et al., Twelfth Judicial Circuit in and for Sarasota County, Florida, Case No. 2014-CA-002822.
Richard A. Harrison is an accomplished civil trial lawyer and the founder of Richard A. Harrison, P.A. (www.harrisonpa.com) in Tampa, Florida. He is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in City, County and Local Government Law. Harrison has represented individuals and organizations in a variety of First Amendment and related matters, as well as other complex civil cases. He is a graduate of Stetson University (B.A. 1982) and Stetson University College of Law (J.D. 1986), where he serves on the Board of Overseers and its Executive Committee and as an adjunct professor of law.
A copy of the full Complaint, including exhibits, is available upon request. A copy of the Complaint without the lengthy exhibits is available here: WeintraubComplaint-woexhibits