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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Appeals court affirms news coverage of former UTOPIA employee not defamatory

By McKenzie Romero, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Aug. 6 10:15 p.m. MDT

 A 10th Circuit appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling Tuesday that an article written about a former UTOPIA employee were not defamatory.

A 10th Circuit appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling Tuesday that an article written about a former UTOPIA employee were not defamatory.

(Michael Brandy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling Tuesday that a news report written about a former UTOPIA employee was not defamatory.

Chris Hogan, a former employee of the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, attempted to sue the company, West Valley City, former Mayor Mike Winder and Deseret Digital Media in 2011 after an article about his contentious dismissal was published on KSL.com.

The article was written by Winder, then-mayor of West Valley City, who used the alias Richard Burwash on a number of freelance submissions via the Deseret Connect community contributor system.

Hogan served as vice president of marketing, sales and business development of the UTOPIA fiber-optic network until March 2011. In the lawsuit, he called the article a conspiracy and claimed it was defamatory, deprived him of Constitutional rights, invaded his privacy and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

A district court ruled in 2012 and the federal appeals court affirmed Tuesday that the Burwash article about Hogan did not constitute defamation because there is sufficient context to explain critical statements.

In its decision, the court asserted Hogan cannot take his claims further.

— McKenzie Romero

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