A civil case filed by the former Lycoming County Republican chairman against two city officials and a former state representative has been nixed a third time - this time by the state's highest court.
Harry Rogers, of DuBoistown, reported to police that he saw another man stumble out of a city bar in March 2008, resulting in a city councilman being stopped by city police for suspicion of driving drunk.
Councilman Bill Hall, who now is council president, was not arrested as a result of the stop and later alleged Rogers' tip to police had political ramifications, leading to a lawsuit that also named as defendants Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and former state Rep. Steven W. Cappelli, who at the time was running for the Republican nomination for an open state Senate seat and who was supported by Hall.
Rogers claimed to have witnessed Hall leave a tavern and alleged he might not be sober, leading to the traffic stop.
Despite a 15-minute delay in getting a working breathalyzer, Hall was not charged with driving under the influence.
Rogers' defamation lawsuit came after Hall named him as the tipster at a subsequent news conference in City Hall.
"I am glad it's finally over," Hall said. "I don't think there's anywhere else he can go. I am relieved."
In his suit, Rogers claimed he lost income from his prison job and suspected politics was involved because he was local chairman of the Republican party at the time and supporting state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw.
A Lycoming County Court judge dismissed Rogers' claim, and Rogers appealed to the state Superior Court, which denied his appeal.
"I tried to prevent someone clearly under the influence from driving," Rogers said. "I didn't want to make it a big deal."
Rogers, who lost a recent campaign for the House of Representatives to state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, said he sought damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, anger, anxiety, loss of sleep and depression. It caused the need to seek medical treatment and take prescribed medication, he said.
Rogers commented Monday on the state high court's recent decision.
"I never got an opportunity to get to court because I was considered a high public official," he said. "The appeal was never denied on its merits. But the court said the defendants wanted to argue that I had no right to sue because I was a high public official."
Elements of the appeal argued that he should not be classified as a public figure, but the Superior Court judges disagreed.
"In his capacities, Rogers often spoke publicly on behalf of the Republican Party, took public positions on behalf of the party and publicly endorsed candidates on behalf of the party," the judges wrote. "By any definition, Rogers was a public figure. As such, the trial court ably determined that, in bringing defamation action, Rogers was a public figure."
The lower court also classified Hall as a high public official entitling him to absolute immunity for any and all statements made during news briefings at City Hall as they were closely related to his official duties.
Despite his loss in the courts, Rogers is adamant about his position. "I filed this to get the truth out and what was said about me in the newspapers," he said. "What was done against me was to try to win a political campaign. I never broke a law or committed a criminal act at all," he said.