Court documents show Judge John Sabatina Jr. has settled a defamation lawsuit he filed against state Rep. Kevin Boyle, thus ending the four-year legal portion of a feud that stretches back even further between the two Northeast Philadelphia Democrats.

Sabatina was still a state senator when he filed suit in 2018 claiming Boyle had been whispering slanderous sweet-nothings to Sabatina supporters that rumored sexual improprieties in his background were set to explode into the public sphere in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

No credible allegations ever emerged, and no criminal charges were ever filed. Sabatina was elected to a judgeship in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas last November.

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Details of the settlement were not available through the court document, and Sabatina did not return a request for comment.

When reached for comment, Boyle responded with a text clearly meant for someone with whom he was consulting, saying, “I was just gonna not comment back to this right wing reporter.”  

Boyle challenged Sabatina in the 2016 primary and lost by a 51-49 margin. Sabatina alleges Boyle started his defamatory whisper campaign in 2018 to lay the groundwork for another challenge in 2020, a challenge that never came to fruition.

In the meantime, the legal battle consumed tens of thousands of dollars, most of which Boyle did not cough up from his own pocket, but rather paid through his campaign committee, which Boyle has said is legal.

“I’ve been instructed of this as being a permissible usage of campaign funds from legal counsel,” Boyle told Delaware Valley Journal in 2020. “Lawsuits stemming from a political campaign or prospective political campaign are most certainly political. Other elected officials have used campaign expenses in this way for legal proceedings,” he said.

Although Boyle paid his defense attorney from his campaign account, much of that money originally came to him from federal campaign accounts run by or linked to Boyle’s older brother, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle.

Sabatina’s lawyers were eager to press this issue, hoping to take deposition testimony about Kevin Boyle’s finances, both campaign and personal, in case a judgment would be rendered against him.

Both brothers won reelection this week.

Kevin Boyle was also embroiled in controversy across the last cycle when, for reasons never clearly explained, his caucus stripped him of his committee assignments and revoked his capitol access badge.

Democrat leadership later restored him to his committee chairman position and all other prerogatives, but did so much more quietly than when it meted out Boyle’s original punishment.

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at, or use his encrypted email at @shepherdreports

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