JEFFERSON PARK — After more than four years — and two elections — the defamation lawsuit filed against Ald. John Arena (45th) by a Chicago Police officer who unsuccessfully challenged Arena's bid for re-election is over, according to court records.
Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido did not appeal Judge James P. Callahan's decision to dismiss the lawsuit prompted by seven mailings and one television advertisement paid for by Arena and three unions that supported him in the 2011 aldermanic election. The ads claimed Garrido took money from a firm involved in the much-maligned 2009 parking meter privatization deal, and he would collect two city pensions if elected.
Garrido's reputation was not damaged and his career with the Police Department and as a lawyer not affected, Callahan ruled.
A state appeals court panel in June 2013 revived the lawsuit after it was dismissed by another judge under the 2007 Citizen Participation Act, which was designed to prevent people from being sued for what they say during the political process while exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.
That ruling was reversed by a three-judge panel of the First District Appellate Court, citing a January decision by the Illinois Supreme Court that held that the law prevented only "meritless or retaliatory" suits aimed at stopping people from speaking out from moving forward.
That ruling will likely have a profound influence in how the Citizen Participation Act is applied, according to legal officials.
Garrido did not return phone messages Tuesday, nor did his attorney Michelle Truesdale.
David Arena, the alderman's brother and attorney, also did not return a phone message Tuesday.
In a statement posted on Reddit, Arena said he had paid more than $50,000 in legal fees to defend against Garrido's lawsuit, which he called "frivolous."
Garrido ran against Arena again this year, and Arena defeated him again in April winning approximately 54 percent of the vote and a second term on the City Council.
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