ELYRIA — A county judge has ordered Sam Mazzola to pay a Lorain family $45,555.90 in a 2005 libel lawsuit.
Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery’s decision in the case is unrelated to the Aug. 19 fatal mauling of Brent Kandra by a bear at Mazzola’s Columbia Township compound.
Instead, the lawsuit focused on a letter Mazzola sent to the Better Business Bureau in 2005 as a response to a complaint filed against him and the pet store he was operating at Midway Mall at the time.
According to Mazzola’s Oct. 24, 2005, letter, Michelle Matejcik had filed the complaint because of a dispute over a hamster she had purchased at the store. Mazzola wrote that he offered her store credit, but that Matejcik became upset and he had to have her removed from the pet shop by mall security.
In the letter, Mazzola also accused Matejcik of doing drugs and buying beer for underage children. He also accused her allowing her then-underage daughter to have sex with “older boys.”
In an affidavit she signed as part of the case, Matejcik denied the allegations leveled against her by Mazzola.
“The statements made about me written on October 24, 2005, by Sam Mazzola to the Better Business Bureau, alleging that I do drugs and buy beer for under aged kids, and that I permit (my stepdaughter) to engage in sex with older boys, are totally and completely false and outrageous,” she wrote.
Mazzola said Tuesday that he was never notified of a hearing in the case last week and had thought the case was closed years ago. He called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
“Everything I said in my letter was absolutely true,” he said. “She won by default.”
In court documents filed in the case, Gino Pulito, Matejcik’s attorney, wrote that Mazzola made the comments about his client even though he admitted during a deposition that he didn’t know her at all and that he had based his comments in the letter on conversations he had with one “volunteer” with several problems who worked at his store. Pulito did not return a call seeking comment.
Even with the judgment against him, Mazzola said he won’t give the Matejciks any money.
Mazzola said he intends to file for bankruptcy in the future — his last bankruptcy case was dismissed in federal court because of a timing issue — and the Matejciks will be added to his list of creditors.
“I have nothing,” he said.
Rothgery wrote in his decision that the evidence against Mazzola in the libel case was “uncontroverted.” He ordered Mazzola to pay $20,000 each to Matejcik and her stepdaughter for compensatory and punitive damages. The judge also ordered Mazzola to pay Matejcik another $420 in economic compensatory damages as well as $5,135 for attorney fees.
The death of Kandra remains under investigation by Lorain County authorities and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, which is reviewing whether Kandra was an employee of Mazzola’s and if Mazzola had proper insurance.
Mazzola has denied that Kandra was an employee, but Kandra’s family have said that he was working for Mazzola when he died after being mauled by the bear Iroquois, which has since been euthanized.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Kandra worked for Mazzola, but also warned Mazzola to take steps to protect others from the bears he keeps on his property.
Mazzola pleaded no contest last month to a state charge he had failed to maintain proper wildlife records.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.