Flemington Patch will identify the author of a third-party fraudulent news post to settle a libel and defamation lawsuit filed by former State Sen. Raymond Lesniak after the local news website published a story in January alleging that a murder-for-hire scheme involving political consultant Sean Caddle had renewed interest in the tragic 2019 death of the ex- lawmaker’s wife.
In a statement included in the settlement agreement, Planck LLC and Patch.com stated: “On January 29, 2022, a user of Patch.com using the pseudonym Kendra McIntire, neighbor, posted an article with the title: Lesniak’s Minions Kindle Renewed Interest in Wife’s Death. The article implied that Senator Raymond Lesniak was involved in the death of his wife, and that she died of unknown causes.”
The article inferred that Caddle’s admission that he hired a hitman to murder Michael Galdieri in Jersey City in 2014 had prompted law enforcement officials to reopen their investigation of the death of Salena Carroll Lesniak, suggesting that the former senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate might have somehow been connected to his wife’s death. That allegation was false.
As part of the settlement agreement obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Lesniak will issue a subpoena to Patch seeking the author’s identity. That could include identifying factors, including an ISP address, that Lesniak can use to find the author, although it’s unclear what information the news organization has about the anonymous author.
“I’m not prepared to comment on what Patch can provide,” said their attorney, Claire Rootjes.
According to the settlement agreement, Lesniak will drop his lawsuit within ten days of receiving the information he requested. Patch’s settlement does not “constitute an admission of liability.”
Patch allows third-party users to post directly to their news sites without verifying the authenticity of the poster.
A search of public records, including voter registration and online phone directories, show nobody in New Jersey under the name Kendra McIntire. An examination of Patch.com shows no other articles using that byline.
In what might be just a coincidence, the style of the story resembles other pieces written on the Internet by a controversial ex-political associate of Lesniak who has been at the center of some political controversies. The New Jersey Globe is withholding his name until more information emerges.
The report stated that while Lesniak and Carroll had been together for about two decades, they had only been married for about a year.
“Is it possible that after seven decades of bachelorhood, the husband could not endure matrimonial stress?” the Patch article said.
The Patch story also reported that “it is believed that Caddle has been cooperating with federal prosecutors since last fall, so rumors are flying over who the political consultant might betray to gather evidence sufficient to reduce his potential life sentence.”
“The article is replete with falsehoods and gross inaccurate statements of fact that constitute defamation,” the lawsuit states. “The police are not investigating evidence of foul play in Ms. Carroll’s death, as the article states as fact. Zero evidence has been put forth to suggest Ms. Carroll’s death was a homicide, and certainly none exists implicating (Lesniak).”
Patch ran the story on January 29, 2022, and later pulled it from their website.
The Ocean County Medical Examiner found that Mrs. Lesniak died of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease and natural causes.