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Ruling upholds libel suit rejection


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Honolulu Magazine and the Garden Island newspaper did not libel a convicted rapist identified as a suspect in a series of attacks in 2000, the state Intermediate Court of Appeals has ruled.

Last week's ruling upholds a lower court's dismissal of a 2002 lawsuit filed by Waldorf Roy Wilson II against the two publications and authors of the articles. It also upholds the dismissal from the suit of then-Kauai Police Chief George Freitas, individual Kauai police officers and the county, because Wilson took too long to pursue his claim of misconduct against them.

Wilson was on parole for 1983 rape and kidnapping convictions when three women were raped, beaten and stabbed on Kauai between April and August 2000. Two of the victims died.

Kauai police took Wilson into custody for questioning Sept. 12, 2000. That evening a television station identified him as a suspect. To date, no one has been charged in the attacks.

Honolulu Magazine, in an August 2001 article, identified Wilson by name. It said Freitas declined to confirm whether Wilson was among a handful of suspects police were investigating. It said the television report identifying Wilson as the suspected killer was accepted as fact on Kauai.

The Garden Island, in a Jan. 28, 2002, article, did not name Wilson, but it described the suspect as a 42-year-old man previously convicted of rape who was scheduled for a parole hearing that day. It also said Wilson matched the general description of the suspected killer.

Wilson sued the magazine and the newspaper but not the television station.

The appeals court found that the discussion of Wilson in connection with the police investigation is a matter of legitimate public concern, and therefore Wilson had the burden of proving the articles false, which he did not. The appellate court also ruled Wilson had the burden to disprove opinions stated in the articles but did not.

Wilson sued the county, Freitas and the police officers for leaking information about the investigation to the news media and pressuring the Hawaii Paroling Authority to revoke his parole. The appeals court ruled that the lower court was justified in dismissing Wilson's claims against the police and county for deliberately delaying the case by failing to take any action or communicate with the defendants for more than a year.

The paroling authority revoked Wilson's parole following his September 2000 arrest. He won release on July 15, 2004. And on Oct. 4, 2007, he completed the requirements of his 1983 rape and kidnapping sentence and is no longer under parole supervision.

According to the latest update to the state sex offender registry, Wilson resides in Windward Oahu.