Mouhab Rizkallah, who owns a number of apartment buildings, today agreed to drop his libel suit against two student journalists at the Tufts University newspaper who wrote about a protest about one of this buildings, but is continuing to sue one of the people he said organized the protest for defamation.
In a filing in Middlesex Superior Court today, Rizkallah and the two students asked a judge to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning Rizkallah can't sue them again for the same incident - a protest outside his Somerville orthodontics practice that they covered.
Rizkallah dropped the suit less than a month after he filed it. He alleged the two Tufts Daily editors made him look like a liar for saying he "repeatedly" claimed none of the protesters were actually residents of the building, when, in fact, he recognized one of them as one of his tenants. Prior to the two sides filing the joint stipulation, the students' lawyer had filed an answer to Rizkallah's suit that said the students did not write anything inaccurate and that the story would stay posted on the Tufts Daily Web site.
In a separate action, Rizkallah sued Michael Ventura, in February for defamation. Ventura was one of the organizers of the protest the reporters covered.
In his suit, Rizkallah charges that Ventura has gone beyond simple protests into outright harassment, to the point of following him around and staring at him on the streets of Somerville, that despite Ventura's claims, he was never a tenant at the building in question and that while he had once legally lived in another building Rizkallah owns, Rizkallah sought to evict him for non-payment of rent in December, 2020, after which Rizkallah alleges Ventura broke into another apartment and began squatting there, along with some friends.
On March 9, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Maureen Mulligan issued a preliminary injunction against Ventura, ordering him to stay away from Rizkallah and his buildings and to not stage any loud protests in front of them between 7:30 a.m. and noon, Monday through Saturday. Mulligan wrote that Rizkallah had proven Ventura was doing "irreparable harm" to him.
On Monday, Ventura, who now lists a Fenway address, asked the judge to delay any action in the case until he can find a lawyer. Mulligan did not lift the preliminary injunction, but gave him until April 29 to find a lawyer and answer Rizkallah's defamation suit.