Lincoln men say newspaper articles damaged their names

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 30, 2008

HUNTINGTON -- Two Lincoln County men claim their reputations have been damaged because of numerous newspaper articles accusing them of election and campaign law violations.

Timothy Butcher and Bobby Adkins filed a lawsuit in Cabell Circuit Court alleging they were portrayed in a false light when The Lincoln Journal newspaper published multiple articles indicating they had committed certain criminal election and campaign financing violations.

Timothy Butcher, who is the brother of Daniel Butcher, owner of The Lincoln Standard, and Adkins, who previously worked for The Lincoln Standard, filed suit against Thomas A. Robinson, the publisher of The Lincoln Journal, and against Ron Gregory, who wrote the articles, along with the paper itself.

According to the complaint, The Lincoln Journal articles claim Daniel Butcher worked to help elect four candidates he hoped to see win. He did that, in part, by giving money to Timothy Butcher and to Adkins, who then would turn around and give the money to the candidates, the paper alleged.

Daniel Butcher was attempting to hide his campaign contributions because he is the owner of The Lincoln Standard and wanted to appear impartial, the paper claimed.

"The article indicated that Daniel Butcher, Mr. Butcher, and Mr. Adkins were part of the group of conspirators that allegedly sought to effect the outcome of the May 13, 2008, Lincoln County primary election," the suit states.

Because of this and other accusations Butcher and Adkins claim are false, they filed suit.

The first of the articles published against Butcher and Adkins appeared on April 16 and claimed that The Lincoln Journal's analysis of campaign finance records revealed "several contributions can be tied to the family of landscaper Dan Butcher of Florida," the suit states.

In another article published April 23, The Lincoln Journal spoke of a criminal complaint that stated "some individuals also caused advertisements to be placed in the Butcher newspaper without properly forming election committees to expend funds for this purpose," the suit states.

The same article also said, "among allegations contained in the complaints are: the exchange of checks and/or cash between third parties, obstruction of justice, bribery, tax evasion, back-dating checks, and knowingly and improperly filing campaign expenditure and contribution reports," the suit states.

In the complaint, Timothy Butcher and Adkins were identified as co-conspirators, The Lincoln Journal wrote in one of its articles.

An April 30 article accused Daniel Butcher of firing Adkins after Adkins talked to the Lincoln County prosecutor about the allegations.

After The Lincoln Journal purported to find a second complaint filed concerning alleged campaign law violations, it again published articles Timothy Butcher and Adkins claim are untrue, according to the complaint.

In a May 7 article, the paper stated that the second complaint alleged Adkins and others had "individually and/or their companies directly or indirectly and fictitiously paid campaign expenses for the slate of candidates," the suit states.

Appearing in a May 21 article were statements from the second complaint that allegedly states that "the names of individuals who have conspired together to change the results of the primary election on May 13, 2008, in Lincoln County and possibly even the state include, but not limited to: Daniel Butcher, ... Bobby Adkins and Tim Butcher," the suit states.

Because of the articles, Timothy Butcher and Adkins claim they suffered a defamation of character.

The articles "harmed their respective reputations, lowered their respective standings in the estimation of the community, deterred people from associating or dealing with them, and/or generally reflected shame and disgrace upon Mr. Butcher and Mr. Adkins," the suit states.

Both men have suffered substantial damage to their reputations, mental suffering, annoyance, aggravation, inconvenience and emotional distress, according to the complaint.

They have also experienced substantial damage to the reputation of their businesses and have been subjected to public ridicule, they claim.

By publishing the articles, the defendants intended to humiliate and embarrass Timothy Butcher and Adkins, to influence the political process in Lincoln County and to intimidate and silence critics and opponents of candidates associated with The Lincoln Journal, the suit states.

The Lincoln Journal invaded Timothy Butcher's and Adkins's privacy by publishing statements about their financial conditions, they claim.

The paper also placed both men in a false light by publishing articles about them that were not true, according to the complaint.

"Defendants while in possession of one or more documents that they alleged purported to be criminal complaints regarding certain alleged conduct of Mr. Butcher and/or Mr. Adkins published the false statements contained therein without conducting any reasonable inquiry regarding the truth and/or veracity of the statements in contained in the alleged criminal complaints," the suit states.

In the four-count suit, they are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney fees, court costs and other relief the court deems just.

Thomas E. Scarr and Gary A. Matthews of Jenkins Fenstermaker in Huntington will be representing the plaintiffs.

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