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Mobtown Beat

Fitted For a Suit

Developer Files $12 Million Lawsuit Against City Paper

By Joe Eaton | Posted 12/19/2007

A local real-estate developer is suing City Paper and senior staff writer Van Smith, claiming that Smith falsely accused him of involvement in a 2003 double murder.

In the lawsuit, filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Dec. 5, Nicholas Piscatelli claims Smith accused him in two stories in 2006 ("Late Discovery," Mobtown Beat, Dec. 6) and 2007 ("The Lonely Killer," Feature, June 20) of murdering Jason Convertino and Sean Wisniewski or arranging their murders. The lawsuit seeks $6 million from both Smith and City Paper for damage to Piscatelli's reputation, "mental anguish," and "humiliation."

The legal action stems from stories Smith wrote about the investigation into the murders of Convertino and Wisniewski and the court case that led to the conviction of Anthony Jerome Miller, who is currently serving a 60-year sentence for two counts of second-degree murder.

At the time of the murders, Convertino, 31, managed Piscatelli's Redwood Trust, a now-defunct downtown night club. Convertino also arranged appearances at the club by hip-hop stars. Wisniewski, 22, was a DJ who sometimes performed at Redwood Trust.

On April 12, 2003, the two men were shot to death inside Convertino's apartment in upper Fells Point. Investigators later tracked Convertino's laptop computer and credit card to Miller, who had used the credit card to help pay for his honeymoon in Cancun. DNA evidence also linked Miller to the murders.

During 2006 and '07, Smith followed the investigation and the court case against Miller for City Paper. In his 2006 story "Late Discovery," Smith wrote about a discovery document in the case that said Pam Morgan, Convertino's mother, was approached by a man after the murder who told her Piscatelli hired someone to kill her son.

In an interview with Smith regarding the accusation, Piscatelli expressed dismay that Miller's defense attorney might try to link him to the case, saying, "I wouldn't ever dream of doing anything like that. . . . I wouldn't hurt a fly."

In Smith's 2007 story "The Lonely Killer," the reporter wrote that, after Miller's conviction in the murder trial, questions remained as to whether the shooter had acted alone.At the time of his murders, Convertino was trying to move a P. Diddy appearance scheduled at Piscatelli's club to another club, Smith wrote. In addition, Piscatelli suspected Convertino was stealing money from Redwood Trust.

Smith and City Paper editor Lee Gardner declined to comment on the lawsuit. Peter Prevas, the attorney for Piscatelli, did not return calls by press time. Tim Hinton, corporate counsel for CEGW Inc., the Scranton, Pa., company that owns City Paper, says he has read the lawsuit and the stories and is convinced Piscatelli was treated fairly in the articles.

"We are going to hire attorneys, and we will answer [the suit]," Hinton says.

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Related by keywords

Judgement Day : Judge rules in favor of City Paper in Piscatelli lawsuit 3/18/2009

The Lonely Killer : Anthony Jerome Miller Got 60 Years For Double Murder, But Questions Still Remain Over Whether Or Not He Acted Alone 6/20/2007

Miller's Crossing : Anthony Jerome Miller Convicted in Redwood Trust Double Murders 3/21/2007

Late Discovery : A New Twist in the Redwood Trust Double-Murder Case 12/6/2006

Trying Time : Double-Murder Suspect Pleads Not Guilty 3/22/2006

Accidental Justice : Despite Foe’s Best Efforts, a Controversial Real-Estate Investor Gets Light Treatment in Drunk-Driving Case 7/7/2004

Deadwood Bust : Redwood Trust Nightclub Deal Goes to the Courts 4/28/2004

Club Trouble : Redwood Trust for Sale After DWI Conviction of Owner, Murder of Manager 6/11/2003

Tags: redwood trust murders, Nicholas Piscatelli

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