Newspaper publisher fined in defamation case

 Brian Hews, left, and former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Brian Hews, left, and former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

CERRITOS -- The publisher of a local weekly newspaper was fined $2,500 for withholding evidence as part of a defamation lawsuit filed against the publisher, a newspaper reported. 

Brian Hews, publisher of Los Cerritos Community News, reported last year that Central Basin Water board director Leticia Vasquez and Montebello councilmember Vanessa Delgado attempted to extort money from a Newport Beach real estate firm in 2016. 

Vasquez denied the charges and sued, accusing Hews of fabricating the story “out of thin air.” 

The Gateway Guardian Newspaper, a competing newspaper in Cerritos, reported that Hews was fined $2,500 on Nov. 6 for withholding evidence without legal justification. 

The newspaper also reported that Hews “finally admitted” in court that the sources for his stories were Central Basin board members Art Chacon and Phil Hawkins. 

Vasquez told the Gateway Guardian she plans to amend her lawsuit to add Chacon and Hawkins as defendants. She filed an injunction “to prevent future fake news stories” by Hews and is seeking compensation for damages and attorney’s fees. 

As part of the lawsuit, Randy Economy and Jerry Bernstein, former journalists at Los Cerritos Community News, filed sworn declarations in which they claimed Hews regularly published false stories about public officials he feuded with or who did not support his newspaper via advertising.

Asked for comment, Hews told the Patriot to “f--- off.”