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Apparent settlement in defamation lawsuit

Apparent settlement in defamation lawsuit


VALPARAISO — A defamation lawsuit targeting the former website appears to be settled, according to one of the attorneys involved.

Attorney Brian Hurley confirmed the news Monday morning, but said terms of the settlement are confidential.

He referred further comment to his client and Valparaiso businessman Chuck Williams, who was not immediately available.

Williams filed the civil suit against in December 2015 targeting what he said are false claims about him posted on the website, which appears to no longer exist.

Williams said in the suit the various claims were made, in part, as a result of a personal vendetta held by David Wichlinski and others due to Williams' failure to support Russell "Chet" Barone's failed bid for Porter County Council in 2014.

"Defendants' false statements have harmed Mr. Williams' reputation, lowered him in the estimation of the community, and deterred third persons from associating or dealing with him," according to the suit.

Wichlinski, who had once served on the Porter Township Board, has said in a filing with the suit that he alone created the controversial website.

Wichlinski declined comment on the settlement when contacted Monday.

He had defended himself against allegations of defamation by saying those targeting him with the lawsuit are public figures and the posts involve "commentary on an issue of public importance."

Wichlinski sought to have the suit dismissed under state legislation aimed at curbing so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation or SLAPP suits.

Wichlinski's attorney, Michael Michmerhuizen, of Fort Wayne, was not immediately available for comment.

"This site is a real cancer on this community," Williams said when the suit was filed, stressing the negative impact the claims have had on his personal and business life.

A June 11, 2014, post featured aerial photos of Williams' home with the caption identifying it and saying, "If there's a deal going down in Porter Co., he'll never be very far from it."

Williams detailed several posts he claimed are defamatory, starting with a claim that a county employee reduced the assessed values of three properties supposedly owned by Williams. Williams said he never owned one of the properties and explained one of the other reductions resulted when he deeded a portion of the building to a church.

Williams also denieed accusations of "insider profiting" in a parking lot deal with the city of Valparaiso and an accusation of being Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas' "right-hand man."

Williams also accuses Wichlinski of using social media to undermine a pavilion project he and others are pursuing at the Indiana Dunes State Park.

The lawsuit sought an unidentified amount of money for damages and attorney fees, and an order barring the defendants from publishing any further false statements about Williams.


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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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