PHILADELPHIA (CN) - John Connelly Jr., heir of a prominent Delaware Valley family, claims in court that a man defamed him at an elegant black-tie dinner by loudly accusing Connelly of poisoning Connelly's recently deceased wife.
Connelly, a consultant, is the son of the late John F. Connelly, founder of Connelly Container and later chairman of Crown, Cork & Seal, a multinational packaging firm that clams to manufacture one out of every five beverage cans used in the world.
The elder Connelly established the Connelly Foundation, which has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to schools, hospitals, libraries, homeless shelters, churches, clinics, scholarships and other causes.
Connelly married Jane Armstrong Connelly in 1994, and they had a son, Evan, before they divorced in 1997.
In his complaint against Scott W. Ryan, Connelly says he and his former wife maintained a respectful and amicable relationship during their separation and divorce, and even vacationed together with their son and his ex-wife's family.
He says he voluntarily supported his former wife and son, enabling her to be a stay-at-home mom.
In December 2002, while 7-year-old Evan sat on her knee, Jane Connelly was stricken by an "intracerebral hemorrhage," Connelly says in the complaint. He says his son ran across the street for help, but his mother was brain-dead upon arrival at a hospital, and was removed from life support a few days later. She died on Dec. 27, 2002.
Nine years later, in December 2011, Connelly attended a black tie dinner for the Philadelphia Chapter of the Commanderie De Bordeaux at the Lacroix Hotel in Philadelphia. About 100 socially prominent guests attended, he says.
During the dinner, guests seated at a table with the defendant began discussing what they did for a living, and one mentioned he had recently retired from Crown, Cork and Seal.
With that, Connelly says, Ryan declared in a loud voice that "he personally knew that John F. Connelly, Jr. had murdered his wife by poisoning her to death."
"When confronted and asked to stop his slanderous diatribe, the defendant, Scott W. Ryan, refused to leave his self-appointed spot at center stage and held 'court' making an intolerable situation even more horrendous," Connelly says in the complaint.
"The defendant 'vehemently insisted in a loud voice, in front of everyone present that not only had Mr. John F. Connelly, Jr. poisoned his former wife to death, but that he had been the instrument in having the hospital remove Jane Armstrong-Connelly from her life support system and then had taken action to circumvent the performance of an autopsy,'" Connelly claims, citing exhibits attached to the complaint.
He adds that the accusation would have involved him in "a complex and particularly diabolical criminal conspiracy with officials of Christiana Hospital in Delaware."
Connelly says Ryan's loud and slanderous diatribe lasted for 5 to 10 minutes.
He seeks at least $250,000 in compensatory damages and punitive damages, for slander.
He is represented by Leon A. King II, of Philadelphia.