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Suit demands $25 million in damages and fees

12/1/2004 - Detroit Tigers

DETROIT -- Former Detroit Tiger Cecil Fielder sued the
Detroit Newspaper Agency and a Detroit News reporter over articles
reporting that the slugger lost about $47 million from gambling and
bad business decisions.
The libel suit, filed Nov. 23 in Wayne County Circuit Court,
accuses the Detroit Newspaper Agency and reporter Fred Girard of
defaming and slandering the three-time All Star by reporting that
he was "in hiding," "not in contact with his family," not
supporting his daughter financially, and had an "unstoppable
gambling compulsion," according to the suit.
The agency runs the paper's business and production operations.
The paper is owned by Gannett Co.
The suit demands $25 million in damages and fees. Lawyers for
Fielder said they asked for a retraction but never got it.
"His name is now associated in the public with family
abandonment and compulsive gambling," Steve Weiss, a lawyer for
Fielder, said Wednesday.
Mark Silverman, publisher and editor of The Detroit News,
declined comment. Girard referred questions to lawyer James E.
Stewart, who did not immediately return a message left at his
office.
The suit also names Al Arostegui, a real estate agent in Coconut
Grove, Fla., who sold Fielder a home in 1995 and told the newspaper
that "gambling caused Cecil Fielder's empire to collapse," one of
the phrases the suit specifically cites as defamatory.
Arostegui declined to comment on the suit, saying he had not
been served with it or seen it.
The News on Oct. 17 ran a story by Girard headlined "Gambling
shatters ex-Tiger's dream life." Using court documents from
Fielder's divorce case and a suit brought against him by Trump
Plaza Hotel and Casinos in New Jersey, as well as interviews with
family members and associates, the story describes credit accounts
at casinos and debts to credit card companies and several banks. It
also depicts difficulties within the Fielder family, and describes
how the Florida mansion he owned now sits empty.
Fielder's lawyers said the stories exaggerated the gambling and
reported incorrect information.
In a follow up story Oct. 21, Fielder told the News he planned
to repay his debts, saying: "I'm going to be a man about it. I'm
going to take care of all my responsibilities."
The stories also appeared in USA Today.
Fielder, whose playing career ended in 1998, led the American
League with 51 home runs and 132 RBIs for Detroit in 1990. During a
four-year span with the Tigers he totaled 160 homers and 506 RBIs.