City Desk

Sinclair Skinner Sues Over Being Called ‘Crook’

According to District lawyer Jimmy A. Bell, one-time political insider and mayoral frat bro Sinclair Skinner has been defamed. As a result, he's filing a defamation suit against Anthony Currie, owner of Currie & Associates LLC of Hyattsville, Md.

"In October 2010," the suit explains,"Defendants through Anthony Currie did knowingly, and with malice, publis[h] a false and defamatory statement about Plaintiff to the media in October 2010 and to third persons that Plaintiff was a 'crook'. Defendants statements were reckless untrue and per se defamatory under Maryland law."

Bell says the suit, which asks for 3 million dollars in damages and has been filed in the Prince George's County, Maryland, stems from a Hill Rag article written by Hunter L. Gorinson. The story, which was actually published in April, quotes Currie talking about being hired as a subcontractor by Liberty Engineering & Design (LED), Skinner's Martin Luther King Ave.-based engineering firm.

The arrangement turned out to be controversial: Currie said he did the work for below market rates. But, according to a D.C. Council investigation released in March, LED charged the District a marked-up price for the work Currie provided, as part of a city parks and recreation contract provided to Banneker Ventures.

In the article, Currie told the Hill Rag that he was confused by LED's actions. "I had no clue," he told the publication. "But after awhile I started realizing these guys were crooks." The assertion forms the crux of Skinner's lawsuit. (Full disclosure: I wrote several articles for Hill Rag in 2008 and 2009.)

"We cant wait until this case gets to a jury, let the chips fall where they may," says Bell. Bell also suggests there are more suits coming: "Everyone who has wronged Mr. Skinner is going to have to be made accountable by a jury of their peers." Reached by phone, Skinner confirmed that he was suing, but declined further comment.

Currie says he's stunned by the suit. "Well, I don't know what he would be suing me for. I worked with them as a consultant and they literally robbed me." Currie also says he was "the only honest, professional person involved in what they were doing."

The D.C. Council probe into the parks and recreation spending exonerated former Mayor Adrian Fenty, but still found problems with the way the city was billed. Lawyer Robert Trout, who conducted the investigation called the markups the city paid "grossly excessive." His report said that Skinner charged the city  $500,000 in markups.

Bell argues that despite the Trout report, Skinner still shouldn't have been called a crook. "That is not a crime," he says. "My client has no criminal record. In fact, my client did not have a contract with the D.C. government. My client's business was a subcontractor to another business that had a contract with the DC government. My client submitted its bill to the other entity and D.C. government paid the bill to the other entity."

Now all Bell has to do is sell a judge and jury on that. Lawyer Scott Rome, a civil trial attorney who's had cases that have included defamation claims, says Skinner will have to prove that he suffered damages and "they'll have to show that that interview was the reason."Crook, what does that mean? It's vague," says Rome.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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