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Ads negative to Cook County state's attorney candidate can keep running
By Rob Olmstead | Daily Herald Staff

Howard B. Brookins, Jr.

 

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Published: 1/31/2008 1:19 PM | Updated: 2/1/2008 8:37 AM

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A radio ad accusing Cook County state's attorney candidate Howard Brookins Jr. of not paying child support can continue airing, a judge ruled Thursday.

Cook County Circuit Judge Stuart Palmer did not decide if the ads were slanderous, but said the First Amendment prohibits prior restraint of speech under most circumstances because it would make people fearful of voicing their opinions.

"It would detrimentally affect democracy as we know it," said Palmer, quoting from a previous federal court case.

The ad, in which a woman alleges Brookins failed to pay child support, is based on his divorce court file. In it, his ex-wife alleged he refused to pay $1,083.80 in medical expenses for their child.

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A judge ordered him to in March 2007 and then, in May 2007, found him in indirect civil contempt for failing to do so, attorney Matthew A. Flamm said in court Thursday. Flamm represents the defendant, Rikki Jones, chairwoman of Cook County Democratic Women, the group running the ad.

Brookins' camp said the finding was later vacated. He said the payment delay was due to his ex-wife incurring out-of-network costs when she was supposed to use an HMO. A judge was asked to decide who should pay.

Brookins' lawyer, David J. Rosenfeld, said the ads were slanderous because, legally, "medical expenses are not child support."

Palmer acknowledged that "was technically correct," but whether "child support can be construed (by most nonlawyers) to include medical payments … is a question for another day."

Brookins alleges that Cook County Democratic Women is a largely defunct group that couldn't possibly afford the radio ads running on WVON. He alleged that competing candidate Larry Suffredin was behind the ads.

Jones acknowledged she had a fundraiser and that Suffredin was among the political candidates there. And, she said, Suffredin gave the group money to run an ad about their endorsements for all races up for election. But he did not give money for the ad in question, she said.

Suffredin said his contribution was $750: $500 for the ad and $250 for the fundraiser.