Pritt loses libel suit

By John O'Brien | Mar 15, 2006

Charlotte Pritt

FAYETTEVILLE - Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlotte Pritt lost her case Monday to have two Republican organizations who ran advertisements against her held libel for her loss in the 1996 election.

A jury in Fayette Circuit Court found information in the ads, run by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the West Virginia State Victory Committee, to be consistent with Pritt's voting records.

The lawsuit was filed in Fayette Circuit Court in 1997 and, following stops in federal court, the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, ultimately concluded nearly nine years later in the same courthouse.

The case was originally assigned to Charles Vickers, who is now retired. Judge Paul Blake presided over the trial, which took seven days and ended Monday.

Pritt alleged that the two organizations fabricated information for their advertisements in support of Republican candidate Cecil Underwood, who publicly called for the ads to be pulled.

She said the ads portrayed her as an advocate for sex education for elementary school students. A former teacher, she added that the ads hurt her future potential income.

Defense attorney Mike Carey said a comparison showing a similarity in the information used in the ads and Pritt's voting record was the key statement his side made.

After the 1996 election, Pritt lost again in 2000, falling to now-Governor Joe Manchin in the race for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State. Manchin had broke from his party lines in 1996 to support Underwood after Pritt had defeated him in the Democratic primary.

During that election, Pritt's lawsuit was still waiting on judgment. Ironically filed in Fayette Circuit Court with the thinking it would be dealt with faster than in Kanawha, the case ended up lasting nearly an entire decade.

One of the original defendants, the National Republican Committee, had charges against it dropped by Judge Blake before the jury deliberated.

Pritt is a former state senator and delegate from Kanawha County. She was represented by Hugh Roberts.

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