Judge tosses defamation suit filed by ex-Parole Board chair

Jul 18, 2022, 3:50 PM | Updated: 4:32 pm

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A defamation lawsuit filed by the former chair of the Virginia Parole Board against a Richmond TV station and one of its reporters has been thrown out by a judge.

Tonya Chapman filed a $7 million lawsuit against WTVR-TV and reporter Jon Burkett in March 2021, alleging that two stories Burkett published about an investigation of the parole board by the state’s government watchdog agency included several defamatory statements. The lawsuit claimed Chapman suffered “great humiliation” and injury to her personal and business reputations.

The stories focused on a 13-page draft report produced by the Office of the State Inspector General about the board’s controversial 2020 decision to release Vincent Martin, an inmate who had served about 40 years in prison for killing a Richmond police officer in 1979.

WTVR was the first news organization to report on the document, which contained significant differences from the final report made public last year, including a critical finding about Chapman.

Chapman did not participate in the decision to grant Martin parole. She said in her lawsuit that nothing in the first story explained that the report was a draft. She also said that sections of the draft report that dealt with her were not included in the final report “because they were not true.”

In her decision to dismiss the lawsuit, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline McClenney wrote that Chapman has not alleged “actual malice” in her lawsuit. In order to prove defamation against a public figure such as Chapman, plaintiffs must show “actual malice,” that the defendant realized his statement was false or that he had serious doubts about the truth of his statement.

“Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts,” McClenney wrote in her ruling.

Chapman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the dismissal of her lawsuit. A message was left for her at her office in Portsmouth, where she now works as the city manager. Christian Connell, one of her attorneys, said Chapman intends to appeal the ruling.

“Sometimes cases take longer than expected. This happens to be one of those cases,” Connell said in an email.

Burkett and Brett Spain, one of his attorneys, declined to comment. WTVR News Director Sheryl Barnhouse also declined to comment.

The lawsuit sought $5 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages, plus other expenses.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One man died and another was seriously hurt in the second fatal shooting this month near the intersection where George Floyd died in police custody more than two years earlier. Minneapolis Police spokesman Officer Garrett Parten said officers found two wounded men with life-threatening injuries Sunday afternoon near the intersection in south […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: 2 dead after SUV crashes into N. Carolina restaurant

WILSON, N.C. (AP) — A sport utility vehicle crashed into a North Carolina fast-food restaurant on Sunday, killing two sibling customers, police said. The single-vehicle crash occurred at about 9:45 a.m. at a Hardee’s restaurant in the city of Wilson, around 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of the state capital, Raleigh. The Lincoln Aviator struck […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Hit-and-run on Chicago street leaves 3 dead, 1 injured

CHICAGO (AP) — Three people were killed and another injured when they were struck by a car during a hit-and-run on a Chicago street early Sunday, police said. A sedan hit the four males around 5 a.m. on the city’s South Side and then drove away, Chicago police said. No one was in custody, police […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Trial begins in shooting death of 7-year-old in Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) — The trial is underway for a man accused of fatally shooting a 7-year-old girl who was riding in a car with her family after a day of Christmas shopping in Atlanta. Fulton County prosecutor Pat Dutcher said in his opening statement on Friday that Kennedy Maxie was struck by gunfire after the […]
17 hours ago
Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay talks to people prior to the Arizona State Navajo Code Talkers Day ...
Associated Press

80 years later, Navajo Code Talker marks group’s early days

PHOENIX (AP) — It’s been 80 years since the first Navajo Code Talkers joined the Marines, transmitting messages using a code based on their then-unwritten native language to confound Japanese military cryptologists during World War II — and Thomas H. Begay, one of the last living members of the group, still remembers the struggle. “It […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Ex-employee shut down PD website over pay dispute, city says

NEWTON, Mass. (AP) — Officials in a Boston suburb are investigating a former city employee they say shut down the police website during a pay dispute. Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said the former employee, who was the police department information technology director, took down the department website in late June and July. The website instead […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Judge tosses defamation suit filed by ex-Parole Board chair