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Monday, November 1, 2004
San Diego Union-Tribune 10-30-04
Trial for ex-SDSU equipment manager's suit July 15
Superior Court Judge S. Charles Wickersham also removed two more defendants from the case yesterday, both Aztecs supporters who criticized Bartel on an Internet message board in 2003.
Bartel, SDSU's former athletic equipment manager, filed suit last year after a Cal State audit condemned the management of the equipment room. The suit claimed invasion of privacy, defamation and five other causes of action against various defendants, including strength coach Dave Ohton and the Cal State Board of Trustees, which governs SDSU.
The suit has since been pared to four causes of action. Athletic Director Mike Bohn and several other athletic department staffers have given depositions in recent weeks.
Cal State and SDSU will file a motion asking Wickersham to dismiss the case before it goes to trial, said Sue Westover, attorney for Cal State.
Seven defendants have been dismissed since August 2003, including the two yesterday. One of the two was William Hammett, who posted on Aztectalk.com that Bartel was "an idiot. He should have been fired." In response to a defense motion that cited freedom of speech, Wickersham's ruling yesterday said, "Pure statements of opinion are not actionable defamation."
The other defendant dismissed yesterday, Robert Forsythe, was sued by Bartel after making a similar Internet posting that Bartel should be "canned." Wickersham again ruled it was pure opinion.
Hammett and Forsythe are entitled to file for attorney's fees from Bartel, who was ordered to pay almost $9,000 in attorney's fees and sanctions to SDSU after his invasion-of-privacy cause was thrown out in August.
The Cal State audit released in April 2003 cited 67 areas of concern in Bartel's equipment room, including alleged inappropriate transactions.
Bartel was fired five months later but was reinstated in a new position at SDSU after a state appeals hearing in February. He seeks exemplary and punitive damages in a suit that claims the defendants made false and misleading statements that hurt his reputation.
The dismissal of the two defendants from the case yesterday "is a very minor development," said Paul Kondrick, Bartel's attorney.
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