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Jeff Greene Libel Suit Against Florida Newspapers Dismissed

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JEFF GREENE
AP

Back in 2010, one of the more colorful political figures to run for office was Florida's Jeff Greene, the billionaire real estate mogul who decided, for some reason, that he was just the guy to challenge then-Rep. Kendrick Meek in the Democratic primary for Florida's open Senate seat. Greene wasn't the most natural fit with the Democratic Party or the times -- he was, after all, a former Republican who had hit it big playing the credit default swaps market while the rest of the financial world was burning down, pushing the nation into a recession and Floridians into a foreclosure nightmare.

Of course, Greene hadn't simply laid back, playing the shorts for big payoffs. He was also elbow deep in the sort of sketchy real estate deals that spurred the market toward downturn. Also, he was something of an ostentatious playboy type, with a reputation for wild parties aboard his yacht, The Summerwind.

The Summerwind was a perennial source of amusement: Sometimes it was banging through coral reefs, sometimes it was mysteriously docked in Cuban harbors. Most notably, it was described as, allegedly, a "vomit-caked yacht."

These things ended up getting noticed, and reported on, by local papers like the St. Petersburg Times (which is now the Tampa Bay Times) and the Miami Herald.

This didn't please Greene, so he sued them for libel. How did that work out? Per Wednesday's Herald: "Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene’s libel suit against Times Publishing Co., publisher of the Tampa Bay Times, was dismissed by a judge on Monday."

"The fact that the plaintiff may not like the way the article was written or how it was written does not automatically provide the basis for a libel suit," [Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Valerie Manno-Schurr] wrote.

The judge also declared that Greene's 2010 campaign made him a public figure: "There is no doubt that Greene had injected himself, even if for a limited time, into the public arena as a candidate for public office [so] he is considered a public figure."

The attorney representing the Times Publishing Co. was pleased with the result, saying, "It's an appropriate dismissal of a lawsuit that should never have been filed."

Greene, however, plans to appeal the decision, a somewhat baffling choice for a man who could otherwise spend his time throwing what are pretty obviously some of the greatest parties in the universe.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Mike Tyson has offered more recent statements testifying that certain incidents that were that were alluded to in the original as "apocryphal tales" never happened on the Summerwind.

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Libel suit against Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald dismissed by judge