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Miami, USA, February 19, 1989

$5.5 Million Awarded for Anti-Semitism Claim

Miami, Feb. 19 [1989] (AP) - A Jewish businessman has been ordered to pay $5.5 million after a court found he forced a Florida restaurateur out of business by falsely accusing him of anti-Semitic conduct.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami said in its ruling Wednesday that the restaurateur, Denis Rety, was "entitled to an unprecedented compensatory and punitive damage award so as to fit the vicious arrogance of the defendant's conduct."

In 1986 Mr. Rety was awarded $22.5 million after a jury found that he had been libeled and his business ruined by the defendant, Arthur Green. When the Circuit Court judge in the case reduced and then vacated the award, Mr. Rety appealed.

Marc Cooper, a lawyer who was part of Mr. Green's defence team, said after Wednesday's ruling, "We have not decided yet what will be done."

Mr. Rety, the former owner of the La Belle Epoque restaurant in Bay Harbor Islands and the Continental Gourmet in Hollywood, left Miami several years ago and now raises horses in Englishtown, N.J.

The incident began in September 1982 when a customer at La Belle Epoque, who was not involved in the lawsuit, complained that a veal chop was too tough.

Mr. Green, who owns the Southern Commodity Corporation, a Miami manufacturer of liquid sugar for industrial use, was sitting at a nearby table when he saw his acquaintance was upset with his meal. The next day, Mr. Green sent Mr. Rety a letter about the incident, court records show.

Mr. Rety telephoned Mr. Green in response to the letter and the two men had a heated exchange. Mr. Green then wrote a letter accusing Mr. Rety of anti-Semitism and threatening to put him out of business, according to court records.

Mr. Green, a former vice president of Temple Israel of Greater Miami and an active member of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, never sent the letter to Mr. Rety. He distributed it instead to several prominent Jews in the community, including the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Bay Harbour Island and the president of a 1,000-member condominium association that has many Jewish members.

The letter said Mr. Rety had called Mr. Green "a rotten, stinking Jew," among other anti-Semitic references.

Mr. Rety was admonished by the South Florida Hotel and Motel Association, and the Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce stopped holding its monthly meetings at the restaurant.

Court records show Mr. Rety's restaurant business declined from $108,000 to $47,000 a month in the winter and from $45,000 to $6,000 a month in the summer. Within a year, Mr, Rety was forced into bankruptcy.

The court ruling said the evidence indicated the anti-Semitic statements attributed to Mr. Rety were "completely fabricated."

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