A limousine operator in Washington, D.C., linked to the Randy “Duke” Cunningham scandal is suing the Copley Press for libel, alleging that Union-Tribune business writer Dean Calbreath falsely reported that company limos “would pick up Congressman Duke Cunningham and a prostitute and take them to the ADCS hospitality suite.” ADCS is the firm of Brent Wilkes, the Poway defense contractor convicted of bribing Cunningham. The suit, filed in Washington’s U.S. District Court by Shirlington Limousine and Transportation, Inc., and its owner Chris Baker, further claims that Calbreath also erred when he reported in April 2006 that the limo company had brought prostitutes to the ADCS suite. The action, filed last May and amended in October, claims that as a result of the allegedly false U-T coverage, Baker “suffered economic, commercial, emotional, psychological and political damage” and was subjected to “a brutal and scathing witch hunt characterized by highly invasive, unwarranted congressional, federal agency and media scrutiny.
“Following these articles,” the complaint goes on to say, “a Congressional Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security held a public hearing exclusively on SL and T, a member of Congress introduced a Congressional Resolution in the House of Representatives calling for an investigation of SL and T, Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter requested the Department of Homeland Security to cancel SL and Ts multi-million dollar federal contract with DHS, hundreds of media stories were published nationally which repeated the false allegations, SL and Ts lease at Ronald Reagan Airport was terminated, and other business damages occurred.”
Baker and his company are asking the court to award them at least $50 million in damages. Copley’s lawyers filed a motion in November to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the Washington court has no jurisdiction over the California paper and its San Diego–based reporter.
Judith Fanshaw, a San Diego–based attorney for Copley, said it was company policy not to discuss the merits of the case, but added, "If you look at the lawsuit and you look at the story, it just speaks for itself [in favor of dismissal]."