Levitt files civil libel lawsuit against Morning Sun newspaper
Mount Pleasant attorney Todd Levitt filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against The Morning Sun, Digital First Media, two Central Michigan University professors and attorney Gordon Bloem.
Lisa Yanick-Jonaitis, community engagement editor of The Morning Sun, College of Business professors James Felton and Kenneth Sanney and Bloem are named in the lawsuit. Levitt is accusing the defendants of libel and slander, false light invasion of privacy, intentional interference with business expectancy, infliction of emotional distress and reckless conduct through the published work of The Morning Sun. Levitt is seeking $1 million in damages for each count.
Levitt sued CMU senior Zach Felton in June over a Twitter account that parodied Levitt. The civil suit stems from a story published by The Morning Sun on Aug. 8 about the case. Yanick-Jonaitis’ story details statements made in court by Levitt during the a hearing regarding the lawsuit. The lawsuit filed Thursday also references an audio confrontation between Levitt, Felton and Sanney published on The Morning Sun’s website.
Isabella County Trial Court Judge Paul Chamberlain dismissed the case in February. Zach Felton is not listed as a defendant in this lawsuit.
“We don’t believe (Yanick-Jonaitis) ever contacted Mr. Levitt to verify anything she wrote,” said John Devine, Jr., Levitt’s attorney. “I’m not sure where all her sources were from. She did refer to court documents, but we believe she did that incorrectly, if not negligently or intentionally.”
Yanick-Jonaitis was the reporter on the Levitt v. Felton case since the suit was filed. Levitt alleges in his new suit that Yanick-Jonaitis made false and defamatory statements about him during the course of her reporting.
Morning Sun Editor Rick Mills said he stands by Yanick-Jonaitis and her reporting. Mills added that he has not seen the complaint.
Bloem told Central Michigan Life that he was unaware of his involvement as a defendant. He said he could not comment on the case until he is formally served court papers and will make a statement once he reads the complaint.
James Felton also was unaware of the suit until Bloem called him shortly after speaking to CM Life.
“I have no idea what the allegations are,” Felton said. “For some reason (Levitt) has it in his head that (myself and Sanney) were involved with the Twitter account. I have no idea why he’s still doing this. At least my son wasn’t named this time.”
Devine said Sanney and Felton are listed because Levitt believes they acted in conspiracy against him.
“The lawsuit spells out their participation to interfere with his business and his expectancy,” he said. “And we think they, by a record they’ve created, did it in a consipracy between and amongst them if not others.”
Sanney and Felton used the audio as evidence against Levitt to file a police report in which they alleged harassment and threats on behalf of Levitt.
“Most of what we’ve alleged comes from the report that Mr. Sanney and Felton filed, and Mr. Bloem used the file they obtained and filed a grievance against Levitt,” Devine said. He was their attorney, and in the police report said they were working with Mr. Bloem at the time they obtained the audio. They built that public record. In quoting Shakespeare, I think they’ve hoisted themselves on their own petard.”