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Published: Thursday, 3/23/2006

Perrysburg hotel owner files defamation lawsuit

BOWLING GREEN - The owner of a Perrysburg hotel has filed a lawsuit in Wood County Common Pleas Court alleging that a Perrysburg couple made defamatory statements about him and his business to prevent the hotel from being built.

The lawsuit claims that the actions of Jon and Jean Modene slowed progress on the project and damaged owner John Kranjec's character with statements that the Belamere Suites hotel, which advertises private entrances, no windows, and two-person showers, would encourage prostitution.

According to Perrysburg police, there have been no problems at the hotel, aside from a damaged room and some stolen pillows and bathrobes.

Mr. Kranjec claims the Modenes interfered with city and bank officials to try to stop the hotel, which opened on Williams Road in late 2003. He is asking the court to prohibit the couple from making further statements about the hotel and to award damages.

The Modenes referred questions to their attorney, who would not comment on the case.

The lawsuit alleges that while the city was considering approving the hotel, the Modenes told city officials and officers with Farmers and Merchants State Bank that the hotel was intended for illicit purposes, including prostitution.

Each of the 18 suites has a king-sized bed, a two-person walk-in shower, a hot tub, a private attached garage, and no windows. The hotel does not allow children.

In December, 2002, while the hotel was under construction, Mr. Kranjec sued for defamation and asked for an injunction to prevent the Modenes from commenting on the hotel.

Wood County Common Pleas Court Judge Reeve Kelsey denied the request for the preliminary injunction the following month, saying that placing a prior restraint on a discussion would create a chilling effect on free speech.

Mr. Kranjec's attorney, N. Stevens Newcomer, said yesterday that the right to free speech doesn't allow people to lie.

The defamation suit was withdrawn by Mr. Kranjec in March, 2005 and refiled last week with a request for a permanent injunction.

A plaintiff in the original suit, Reserve Associates Ltd., the general contractor for the project, is not part of the new lawsuit.

A former defendant, an organization called Family Alliance to Counter Smut, also has been dropped.

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