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Judge says McLeod, Gionet reached agreement on 'written apology'

Decision stems from lawsuit over alleged defamation, infliction of emotional distress

November 30, 2011
LITTLETON — A Grafton Superior Court Judge recently upheld a settlement calling for a "written apology" from former state Rep. Martha McLeod to Rep. Edmond Gionet after the latter sued the former for defamation and infliction of emotional distress he claimed was caused by an email.

On Monday, McLeod said in a letter to the editor that "to be perfectly clear," she wasn't making a public apology because she didn't make any false claims.

Gionet, of Lincoln, had sought a motion to enforce the agreement resulting from negotiations hammered out in August that McLeod, of Franconia, claimed were not completed on time and were in "draft" form, according to the Nov. 7 decision by Judge Peter Bornstein.

On April 6, 2010, McLeod, who was a state representative from 2006 to 2008, sent an email to several lawmakers concerning a House committee's classification of a bill and Gionet's ties to it.

The bill proposed renaming a road in Franconia after Police Cpl. Bruce McKay, who was shot to death in 2007 during a routine motor vehicle stop in that town. The House Public Works and Highways Committee unanimously voted to classify the bill as inexpedient to legislate.

While the bulk of the letter addressed what McLeod saw as the committee's "support of murder and violence as a solution — because that is how it will be interpreted in the papers and in the history books," Gionet said the email also stated that he had previously been cited for a motor vehicle violation by McKay and had attempted, unsuccessfully, to have the ticked fixed. He subsequently provided a copy of his driving record that proved the accusation to be untrue.

Gionet sued McLeod for "defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress," while she denied wrongdoing and asserted counterclaims that included "intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with business relations, and violation of federal and state civil rights to free speech," according to the decision.

In August, Gionet, represented by Edward Mosca, and McLeod, represented by Kenneth Barnes, began negotiations via emails between their attorneys, and Bornstein said the court found that by 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22, the two had "agreed upon all the terms of an enforceable settlement agreement."

According to the decision, McLeod argued that the agreement wasn't valid because Gionet had set a deadline for Aug. 19 that was not met, and "the emails reflect the defendant's intention not to be bound until the parties actually signed an agreement because the agreement that attorney Barnes emailed on Sunday, August 21, was labeled a 'draft.'"

Bornstein said the latter was not supported by evidence and has no significance, while the deadline was set by Gionet for himself and then extended to Monday.

He used the term "apology" a number of times in his decision, and also said that the attorneys agreed that a confidentiality provision "related to the settlement agreement itself but not to the defendant's apology statement."

McLeod said Monday that she has repeatedly offered to send Gionet a "state of regret for including Rep. Gionet's name in a private email," and that she filed the counterclaims to "stop him from causing harm to me and my family."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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