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Philadelphia�The most anticipated libel trial on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania docket has been canceled now that the ABA Journal has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to attorney Richard A. Sprague and to publish a half-page apology in its February issue. The magazine will say that it intended nothing but praise when it described Sprague as “perhaps the most powerful lawyer-cum-fixer” in Pennsylvania. Sprague’s lawyer, James E. Beasley Sr., said the amount of money to be paid to Sprague is confidential but that he considers it a “damned good settlement.” American Bar Association spokeswoman Nancy Cowger Slonim declined to comment beyond a joint press release that said the two sides had reached “an amicable resolution” of the case which “includes a payment to Mr. Sprague, the amount of which is confidential.” Richard A. Sprague v. American Bar Association, ABA Journal, No. 01-382 (E.D. Pa.). Beasley said the promise of a prominently published apology was a critical aspect of the settlement. The apology reads in part: “Intending to praise Mr. Sprague as a highly-regarded and outstanding attorney, we said that he was ‘perhaps the most powerful lawyer-cum-fixer’ in Pennsylvania. Although we recognize that the word ‘fixer’ has a negative connotation in some contexts, we did not intend to disparage Mr. Sprague in any way.” The settlement cancels a trial that was set to begin on Dec. 1 and promised to feature a parade of high-powered witnesses testifying on Sprague’s behalf. Filed in January 2001, the suit was intensely fought, but Sprague survived every round. He sued over a four-page article headlined “Cops in the Crossfire,” in which reporter Terry Carter detailed the unusual court battles that ensued after Philadelphia Police Officer Christopher DiPasquale shot Donta Dawson, an unarmed black teenager, in the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 1998. When the Philadelphia district attorney’s office chose not to prosecute DiPasquale, the article said, a group of black leaders and elected officials filed a private criminal complaint and won a court order requiring DA Lynne Abraham to pursue murder charges. Sprague’s suit quoted and focused on a single paragraph: “The political stakes were raised in May when the DA accepted outside help in the case from her former boss, Richard Sprague, perhaps the most powerful lawyer-cum-fixer in the state. The appearance of the storied Dick Sprague set off alarms in the black precincts. Within a week, they brought in their own big guns.” The suit also quoted a clarification printed in the November 2000 ABA Journal. Beasley said that the clarification was “totally unacceptable” because it made no mention of the term “fixer.”

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