The Philadelphia Inquirer’s countersuit against Stu Bykofsky is a doozy

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If you missed it Thursday, the Philadelphia Inquirer lost a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by former columnist Stu Bykofsky. He is suing the newspaper for defamation following the debacle at his going away party in 2019, which included a whim with colleague Inga Saffron, who cited his alleged “fondness for child prostitutes in Thailand. Safran was reprimanded by Bykofsky, who called the claim a “shitty lie” and a “total lie”.

Anyway, in a brief description of the story, we mentioned Victor Fiorillo, who first shared the party video. Fiorillo noted this:

Alright, I’ll bite. We’re not a Philly Courts blog, but I think people will be interested in learning more about the “cons” combination.

I put counter in quotes because the Inquirer waited to prosecute Bykofsky, so in legalese, I don’t know if that would technically qualify or not. There are few stories about the Inky suit, the most detailed from former Inquirer writer Ralph Cipriano on BigTrial.net, who said:

On June 29, in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, the Inquirer filed a lawsuit against Bykofsky, alleging that in defending his reputation, he violated a non-disparagement clause he signed years ago. three years upon redemption.

In the lawsuit, which Bykofsky’s union leader says is unprecedented, the Inquirer is seeking to recover from Bykofsky “gross wages in the amount of $58,738.56”, plus “payment of his expenses medical COBRA for a period of eight months”.

We obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which is a public record. You just have to pay for it. I think it came to $12.75, which is the price of a Wells Fargo Center IPA, or three gallons of gas in a shitty economy.

Here are some of the interesting things written in the lawsuit, copied verbatim from the opinion (these are their words, not mine) –

  • ‘Bykofsky’s girlfriend, Rose Cruz (“Cruz”), filmed the speeches delivered by Bykofsky’s colleagues at the party on her phone (the “Video”), including the speech delivered by Saffron’
  • “Bykofsky was determined to make Saffron and the Inquirer look bad in any potential story written about the retirement party”
  • “Bykofsky said Saffron’s speech made the Inquirer look bad”
  • “Bykofsky said the video made Saffron feel like ‘a lying, bitter, malicious, crazy person’.
  • ‘On July 17, 2019, Philadelphia Magazine published an article on phillymag.com with the title: Inga Saffron and Stu Bykofsky absolutely trashed each other during Stu’s farewell To party. The online story prominently includes excerpts of Saffron’s speech from the video provided by Bykofsky, which Bykofsky says makes Saffron look like “a lying, bitter, malicious, mad person” and which he says hurts. appear the Inquirer. Bykofsky was also quoted in the article as saying ‘I can’t decide which I preferred – demonstrable lies, careless factual errors, false impressions or guilt by association”
  • ‘Bykofsky breached the non-disparagement clause of the separation agreement, by: providing the video, which he described as making Saffron look like “a lying, bitter, malicious, mad person”, to Philadelphia Magazine in the intended to harm the reputation of Saffron, and thereby harm the reputation of the Inquirer; providing the video, which he described as making the Inquirer look bad, to Philadelphia Magazine in an attempt to damage the Inquirer’s reputation; providing a quote to Philadelphia Magazine stating “I can’t decide which I preferred – demonstrable lies, careless factual errors, false impressions, or guilt by association”; and his attorney and agent providing Marimow’s (former Inky editor Bill Marimow) emails to Ralph Cipriano in an attempt to damage Saffron’s reputation, and thereby damage the reputation of the Inquire.
  • “Because of Bykofsky’s violations of the separation agreement, the investigator suffered prejudice”
  • “Because of Bykofsky’s breach of the separation agreement, Bykofsky shall be required to (i) reimburse Plaintiff for the value of the separation indemnity provided to him in consideration for his agreement, among other obligations, on the non-disparagement clause of the separation agreement; and (ii) indemnify the plaintiff for damages suffered as a result of his breach of the separation agreement.

The CliffsNotes here is that the Inquirer believes Bykofsky disparaged Inga Saffron and company and violated the terms of her takeover in the process of leaking the video and ultimately filing a lawsuit. They allege his girlfriend filmed the altercation, which was aired on Philly Mag with the intention of shitting on the Inquirer. This Fiorillo story, of course, has been aggregated by other outlets (like us).

Bykofsky’s attorney, Mark Schwartz, called for it to be thrown out, calling it a “draconian reaction” to the original lawsuit filed in 2020. In the brief of preliminary objections, he argues that Bykofsky did not disparage the ‘Inquirer, noting that the counter-claim was not filed when the original lawsuit was filed two years ago.

Where this thing really goes awry is when you get to the deposition, which Cipriano mentions in his account (which, it should be pointed out, is not neutral, he is very critical of the Inquirer):

In a bloody exchange of deposition excerpts in the case, Bykofsky admitted he dated a 26-year-old prostitute three or four times during his infamous trip to Thailand in 2011.

It’s something Bykofsky didn’t mention in the column that Saffron used to trash him at his going away party. With respect to Schwartz, however, Saffron’s comments were still defamatory.

“She said he had a taste for child prostitutes, but at no time did he have sex with a child prostitute,” Schwartz said.

What a story! It has a bit of everything. Defamation allegations. Video leaked. Thai prostitutes. It’s a doozy!

I have no understanding of the law, but this sounds like a “chicken or egg” argument. Who was the first to denigrate? Has Bykofsky been defamed? By giving the video to Philly Mag, did he in turn DEPRESS the Inquirer and violate his takeover agreement?

Honestly, I thought this stuff was going to be thrown away. I’m surprised we’re still going. Next up is the jury selection for Bykofsky’s original costume, which Coggin and I volunteered for. If it’s not selected, maybe I’ll go into the courtroom and check it out. Journalism!

(I imagine Fiorillo “can’t report” on this because he’s named in the Inquirer costume)

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