September 20, 2001 08:43 AM

A Chicago judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought against the HBO mob hit “The Sopranos” by the American Italian Defense Association. The suit had accused the show of insulting the dignity of Italian-Americans. Cook County Judge Richard Siebel ruled that the association had no standing to sue as it had suffered no injury from the TV series and, besides, the show had a constitutional right to create and broadcast its depiction of a fictional New Jersey Mafia family. “The aria may be offensive to Verdi, but ‘The Sopranos’ have the constitutional right to sing,” the jurist wrote in his 11-page opinion. (The title of the 19th-century Italian composer’s “Aida” serves as an acronym for the Italian-American group’s name.) The suit was tossed out without prejudice, meaning that AIDA cannot refile it in Circuit Court. An appeal is permitted, however. AIDA didn’t want money or the cable show’s cancellation, but a declaration from a jury that the show offends the dignity of Italian-Americans, attorney Ted Grippo, who represented the association, had said. The group had sued Time Warner Entertainment Co. under the “individual dignity” clause of the Illinois Constitution. (The conglomerate, like PEOPLE, is part of AOL Time Warner.) Tom Yannucci, a lawyer for Time Warner, had argued in the case that viewers wouldn’t assume from watching the show that all Italian-Americans are mobsters or morally corrupt.

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