The political director of the Georgia Democratic party has filed a libel and slander suit against the operators of two blogs – one Republican and one Democrat — for allegedly mischaracterizing his criminal record.
Several dozen Democratic activists – including several state lawmakers – turned out to provide the background for a news conference at state party headquarters, where the court action was announced.
Rashad Richey worked on the 2010 campaigns of Gail Buckner, a candidate for secretary of state, and Carol Porter, a candidate for lieutenant governor. Both women lost.
In a sign of continued party turmoil, Chairman Mike Berlon said he has reason to believe that information on Richey’s background was leaked from office files by a “current” member of the party’s staff – whom he said he was not yet prepared to name. The party’s executive director quit in February.
The lawsuit says that language used on two blogs, Georgia Politics Unfiltered and Blog for Democracy, implies that Richey is a convicted felon. Quinton Washington, Richey’s attorney, confirmed that the 30-year-old state political director – as a 17- year-old — sought first-offender status after being charged with aggravated assault in 1998. Such charges are erased after successful probation service.
Other arrests were cases of mistaken identity, or on misdemeanor charges – including one for driving with a suspended license.
“I’ve made mistakes in my life, but that is exactly where they are – in my past life. Some decisions I’ve made have been wrong and regrettable. I have atoned for those incidents, and have made it my goal to ensure that others don’t repeat the mistakes that I’ve made,” Richey said, reading from a prepared statement. He took no questions.
Thrandon Echols, a guidance counselor and coach at Salem High School in Conyers, Ga., was among those speaking on Richey’s behalf, citing his work with his students.
Public records on Richey’s past have been dripped out by Georgia Politics Unfiltered since mid-April. Quenton Washington, one of Richey’s attorneys, called the campaign a case of “cyber bullying.”
Berlon, the party chairman, said he had thoroughly reviewed Richey’s background. “I can assure you I take these allegations seriously. I can assure you I conducted an exhaustive investigation into the facts and reviewed all the records,” he said. “The record’s absolutely clear that Mr. Richey has never been convicted of a felony. These charges that have been leveled are scurrilous at best.”
Both Berlon and Richey’s attorney asserted that Richey is not a public figure – a status that raises the bar for those seeking damages for libel, slander or defamation. But the lawsuit does note that Richey’s occupations as political director for the party and a radio host “are positions of public trust.”
According to the lawsuit, blog references to Richey as “a jail bird” and “Richey the Recidivist” were intended to force him from his job with the party. The latter phrase “is not only inflammatory on its face, but has a particularly adverse meaning when used in the political arena.”
The suit seeks damages from Andre Walker, a former Democratic party staffer turned Republican, who operates Georgia Politics Unfiltered; Melanie Goux, who operates Blog for Democracy; and former state party parliamentarian Jane Bradshaw. More parties may be added later.
“This libelous act may be continuing and ongoing as the cyberspace universe is infinitely vast in its reach and exposure,” the suit says.
Goux and Bradshaw declined immediate comment.
Walker, contacted on Thursday, said he last worked at the Democratic party in 2008, and was in charge of drawing up the plan to select delegates to that year’s presidential nominating convention. Walker denied that he had been slipped information from Democratic sources. But on his web site, Walker has continued to churn out public records involving Richey — and today produced a November 2010 record from the Clayton County district attorney’s office indicating that Richey had been named in a paternity suit.
“I’m not a bully. I consider myself a truth-teller,” Walker said.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider