www.nysun.com/article/66713 Mayor Becomes Entangled by Gun Lawsuits By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN Staff Reporter of the Sun November 20, 2007 After picking a legal fight with gun dealers down South, Mayor Bloomberg could soon come under fire in courtrooms in South Carolina and Georgia. Two recent court rulings — one from yesterday — suggest that Mr. Bloomberg may want to reserve a few days on his calendar next year in case he is called to face a jury over allegations that he defamed two gun dealers by speaking ill of them in the press. "He's going to get a reception that's very different than the one he gets from his handpicked audiences across the country," a former congressman who is suing Mr. Bloomberg on behalf of a gun dealer in Smyrna, Ga., Atlanta attorney Bob Barr, said. "Jurors here are not likely to believe in gun control or appreciate some outsider coming into their jurisdiction and telling their businesses how to operate." The two gun dealers filed suits after the mayor sued them and other out-of-state gun dealers who had sold many of the firearms that police officers were recovering from crimes in New York. The suits accused the dealers of selling firearms to people whom they knew were likely to quickly resell them to criminals. In an attempt to prove this, the city hired private investigators to make purchases while behaving suspiciously. Two of the accused shops — Mickalis Pawn Shop in Summerville, S.C., and Mr. Barr's client, Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna — countersued, saying the mayor had defamed them at press conferences or in statements in press releases. Among other things, the mayor has called the dealers whom the city sued "the worst of the worst," and said they "have New Yorkers' blood on their hands." Yesterday, a state judge in Charleston, S.C., said the owner of the South Carolina pawn shop, Larry Mickalis, should get an opportunity to show that Mr. Bloomberg made the statements out of malice. The ruling rejected arguments by the mayor's lawyers, who sought to have the suit tossed out. The judge also ordered that Mr. Bloomberg sit for a deposition in New York. The decision paves the way for a trial. If the case does go to a jury, as Mr. Mickalis's attorney, Sonaly Hendricks, yesterday said would happen, a fraction of the mayor's personal fortune and city dollars will be on the line. Yesterday's ruling, by Judge Roger Young of the state's circuit court in Charleston, S.C., allows Mr. Bloomberg to be sued in his private capacity. The judge explained this unusual move by saying that the sting operation Mr. Bloomberg ordered up against the shops went beyond the duties of a New York mayor. "Defendants cite no statutes or case law giving a mayor from the state of New York the power or authority to administer, regulate, or enforce federal law with respect to federal firearms licensees located in South Carolina or to investigate compliance with those laws outside of his own borders," Judge Young wrote. The judge did not give his own view about whether he believed Mr. Bloomberg's statements were defamatory. "Reasonable minds could differ as to whether Defendants' conduct reaches the threshold requirement of extreme and outrageous behavior necessary to support the Plaintiff's claim," the judge wrote. Yesterday's ruling is the second such blow to the city recently. In September, a federal judge in Atlanta refused the city's request to dismiss the defamation suit by Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna. Neither ruling guarantees that there will be a trial. Nor is it clear that Mr. Bloomberg would be required to appear even if there was one. A free speech expert in New York, Floyd Abrams, said Mr. Bloomberg could win on appeals either before or after any trial. Mr. Abrams said the dealers would face the difficult task of showing that the mayor "didn't believe what he was saying." "I find it hard to believe that the courts will not view these litigations as an attempt to slap back at a public official who has been critical of" the gun dealers, Mr. Abrams said. "The general view of the law is that we want public officials like the mayor to speak boldly and in the terms that they feel are necessary to expose potential wrongdoing." A spokeswoman for the city law department said in a statement that the city looked forward to showing in court that the dealers at issue "have been responsible for funneling into New York large quantities of handguns used by local criminals."