Gospel Talk Host Stung For Slander
October 5, 2007 at 10:20 AM (PT)
RICHMOND COUNTY Sheriff RONNIE STRENGTH has been awarded with an $6.35 million judgement against CRUSADER BROADCASTING Gospel WAAW/WILLISTON, SC personality BRIAN L. "RYAN B" DOYLE and station owner FRANK NEELY for slanderous comments DOYLE made on MARCH 19th.
According to THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, during the show in question DOYLE and a caller were discussing a fatal shooting in the 1970s, when DOYLE claimed that STRENGTH was a vice officer at the time of the incident -- and was the one who pulled the trigger without justification. In fact, STRENGTH wasn't even employed by the sheriff's department.
STRENGTH's attorney FREDDIE SANDERS asserted that DOYLE and NEELY did nothing to investigate whether the claims against the sheriff had any basis in facts, they never retracted the statements, and that simply saying "in my opinion" doesn't automatically exempt oneself from slander.
The defendants weren't even in court when the judgement was handed down. In their statement, DOYLE and NEELY contended that as a public official, the sheriff could not prove malice. Furthermore, they expressed surprise that a verdict was made. "We were not aware of a court hearing today," the statement said. "We believed that the case was going to be reset to allow us to obtain new counsel."
The defendants' counsel, HAROLD GARCIA, previously told the judge he wanted to withdraw from the case, but Judge WHEALE ruled he couldn't because he hadn't given his clients the proper notice. NEELY and DOYLE plan on appealing the ruling and possibly file suit against GARCIA.