Your morning jolt: Ray McBerry accuses Henry County mom of libel

In 2003, Ray McBerry quit his high school teaching job in Henry County after a mother accused him of having an improper relationship with her 16-year-old daughter, a student at a neighboring school.

A state licensing board later sanctioned the teacher, who admitted to lying to school officials about meeting the girl.

On Monday, McBerry, a former Republican candidate for governor, sued the mother of the young woman and the operators of a southwest Georgia political blog for accusing him of “child molestation” during his unsuccessful political campaign.

The suit was filed in Henry County Superior Court. It alleges that Linda Pittman, mother of Rachel Gandee, “stated falsely, with actual malice, that [McBerry] had committed the crime of child molestation” on a Facebook page.

Also named in the suit were Jeff Sexton and Thomas Knighton, operators of SWGA Politics, an Albany-based blog.

McBerry’s relationship with the young girl was an issue in the campaign — former secretary of state Karen Handel, the only female candidate for governor, refused to appear on stage with him.

McBerry, who ran on a states’ rights platform and received 2.5 percent of the vote in the July primary, alleges that Pittman, Sexton and Knighton engaged in a “civil conspiracy” against him and “acted tortuously, intentionally, and maliciously with the specific intent to cause harm.”

Pittman, a breast cancer patient, confirmed service of the suit.

Read the background here. We’ll post a link to the lawsuit as soon as we get near a scanner.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

77 comments Add your comment

Roy Barnes

December 1st, 2010
7:09 am

James

December 1st, 2010
7:11 am

I think Ray McBerry is about to start something that he does not want. Obviously, his behavior was inappropriate and I do not think he wants a jury made up of parents in Henry County to hear this case.

Jay

December 1st, 2010
7:34 am

Why even give McBerry the space in your column? He’s toast – and never was that interesting.

John

December 1st, 2010
7:47 am

Apparently, per Ray McBerry any reporter who tells a colleague about a story involving one person making a claim about another means that all three people (the reporter, the colleague, and the claimant) are now a “conspiracy”. Of course, Ray knows ALL ABOUT conspiracies…

ROBOCOP

December 1st, 2010
8:28 am

Ray McBerry has lost his moral compass. In fact, he may never have had one. I concur with James @ 7:11 am. McBerry may have opened up a can of worms he’s going to regret. Unlike a criminal case, he’s going to have to testify if his civil suit goes to trial. At a minimum, he’ll have to give a deposition and answer interrogatories. If Mrs. Pitman has a good enough defense attorney, he’ll open McBerry up like he’s gutting a fish.

HMMMMM

December 1st, 2010
8:34 am

What about the fox 5 people? Why don’t he have the guts to sue them? They did the same as Sexton and Tom.

oops

December 1st, 2010
8:34 am

got “doofus” ?

Bill Orvis White

December 1st, 2010
8:52 am

The Honorable Ray McBerry got railroaded. I pray that he gets cleared and will hopefully run for a U.S. House or Senate seat. There is no doubt that Mr. McBerry has a bright political future as he is the voice for state’s rights. I do hope that Ray is aware of my idea for the Southern Coalition of the United States – a proposal in which these fine states band together to stand up to Liberal Washington and its reckless taxing and $pending!
Amen,
Bill

Last Man Standing

December 1st, 2010
9:07 am

Just who is Ray MvBerry? He doesn’t show up on my radar.

Lolita

December 1st, 2010
9:32 am

Mr. McBerry is a really nice man. He gave me a puppy!

Engineer

December 1st, 2010
9:38 am

Wow, I would have thought McBerry would have learned his lesson and kept his mouth shut and stayed hidden. I strongly suspect that he, like robocop earlier stated, is opening “up a can of worms he’s going to regret”.

Julie Camp

December 1st, 2010
9:39 am

Ray McBerry is a nut! He does not understand how government works. Just because he can quote the Constitution, doesn’t mean he understands it. I’m a right wing nut and he makes me look liberal.

Tom

December 1st, 2010
9:44 am

ROBOCOP, as others have already discovered Mr. McBerry has no reservations about lying about his misdeeds. Any reason to think a court of law (the authority of which he probably doesn’t even recocognize…..no doubt based on something in the Constitution of the Confederate States of America) would get any more respect from him?

Michael

December 1st, 2010
9:56 am

“Pittman, a breast cancer patient, confirmed service of the suit” What does that have to do with anything? I’d sue your estate if you caused a wreck where you ended up in a wheelchair.

And child molestation is a crime that invokes the slander/libel per se statute where damages are assumed. The “crime” of child molestation involves persons under the age of 16. Since the alleged victim in this case was 16 then the charge of child molestation holds no water and as such, is actionable.

Truth

December 1st, 2010
10:03 am

Regardless of what you think about McBerry, Sexton and SWGAPolitics brought this upon themselves.

Capitol Avenue Cal

December 1st, 2010
10:14 am

If he was not charged with a crime, then saying that he was a “child molester” may very well amount to libel/slander. Whether he wins his case is another story altogether.

John

December 1st, 2010
10:32 am

“Child Molestation” can also include cases where teachers have sex with students…

missmollie

December 1st, 2010
10:37 am

Innocent or guilty, his political career is over, IMO…When you lose your effectiveness, you have to find another livelihood…He has been
severely tainted and found guilty in the court of political public
opinion…unkind and unforgiving…

Bill Williams

December 1st, 2010
10:47 am

Considering the fact that the “alleged” situation with young woman in Henry County was when she was above the legal consent age (even if you believe her story), her story does not even come close to the definition of “child molestation.” Saying that someone is guilty of a felony is one of the grounds that is an open and shut case of libel or slander. The only question is going to be whether McBerry is willing to accept a settlement offer or if he is going to go to court and take everything these people and their spouses own.

Tom Knighton

December 1st, 2010
10:55 am

Got to love it when you hear you’re being sued from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution :)

SpaceyG on Twitter

December 1st, 2010
11:02 am

No white vans were used in the creation of an AJC blog. ‘Least that’s what I heard.

Tom

December 1st, 2010
11:03 am

“open and shut”?…..not hardly. I can (and probably have) called the loon a “child molestor” but have never said that he was guilty of the actual tort of child molestation per statute. In a civil action, semantics actually can matter. Middle-aged men preying on teenaged girls (even those meeting the established age of consent) are and will always be called “child molestors” in the same vein that they are (acurately) referred to as “perverts”. The fact that there is no criminal definition of “pervert” is the only difference.

Aquagirl

December 1st, 2010
11:08 am

Ah, the McDingleberry supporters managed to slither out on such a cold day? It must be warmer in LaLa land. Considering SWGA had credible statements, McBerry is an idiot to pursue this. The doofus ran for office, that made him a public figure. Proving defamation is about as likely as him walking on the moon.

Bill Williams

December 1st, 2010
11:09 am

Tom, you (and the defendants in this case) are going to be very surprised when you discover from this case that “semantics” are not remotely a defense for calling someone a name that has a legal definition. When you call someone a “child molestor” you have said that the person has committed the felony of child molestation. If the semantics argument is the best case these defendants has, and I am assuming it is so far, these folks are in a heap of trouble if this goes to court.

cs

December 1st, 2010
11:16 am

If it was an older guy and a young guy we would be beat with the intolerance stick for dissin some fags. Hope Ray cleans their clocks and bankaccounts dry.

a mom

December 1st, 2010
11:16 am

Just because McBerry was smart enough to wait until she turned 16 to make it sexual does not mean it was not inappropriate before she was 16. And its quite comical that he is suing a woman who really has nothing to give him. If a man of any age mentally or physically messes with my 14-16 yr old daughter, he better hope he has a good body guard. I hope Mrs. Pittman gets a good lawyer and squashes him once and for all! In my opinion he is nothing but a disgusting insect in need or a bug zapper.

SpaceyG on Twitter

December 1st, 2010
11:27 am

One request… when Tweeting about this McBerry lawsuit issue, as we all move forward with this toxic sludge, and of course we will as we’re bottom-feeders, please use the hashtag #nowhitevans. This will allow for a concise, readily-available Twitter stream to reference. Will make it easier on the lawyers too, and will help keep legal costs down. Do YOUR austerity part – for our nation’s future.

concerned citizen

December 1st, 2010
11:32 am

Being personally acquainted with one or more defendants in this case, I strongly suggest that the dis-honorable Mr. McBerry check to see if there is anything to be gained from this lawsuit. Perhaps for the lawyers but these people he is suing don’t have anything for him to take. The man was never going to be elected anyway even without the comments made on a blog. His 2.5% of the vote in the primary shows that. If I remember right, the SWGA Politics blog simply was repeating information previously published elsewhere. When an adult teacher has “relations” with a high school student, they are essentially a child molester, no matter if they have been arrested and charged with a felony or not. Most teachers who are charged and found guilty spend time in prison.

SpaceyG on Twitter

December 1st, 2010
11:35 am

*yawn yawn yawn* Wake me up when Cagle sues Erickson though.

SD

December 1st, 2010
11:54 am

Love em, Or hate him. Does this creap really have a chance?

Aquagirl

December 1st, 2010
12:01 pm

Bill Williams, you and McBerry are going to be very surprised when you encounter what the rest of us call “reality.” Don’t you have an American flag to burn somewhere?

Tom

December 1st, 2010
12:05 pm

Bill, then why hasn’t every Ob/Gyn who performs legal abortions and has been called, “murderer”, cleaned out the bank accounts of their attackers?

After all, when you call someone a “murderer” you have said that the person has committed the felony of murder.

Seems to me that the term, “traitor”, also gets thrown about quite a bit, too (especially in political circles)….but you never hear of any of the “traitors” serving their accusers with civil suits.

Bill Williams

December 1st, 2010
12:06 pm

Wow, just spent a few minutes reading some of the online stuff at the internet site of two of the defendants in the case that I pulled up this morning on Google. Not only did they actually call him a “child molestor” but at one point a friend or supporter of their site actually warned them that they were committing libel/slander; and the laughed him off and then went on to publish additional articles doing the same thing. How foolish could someone be? I bet they have been busy at work this morning trying to delete things from the net! LOL Apparently Mrs. Pittman in this case was smart enough to already delete hers; the facebook page either has been deleted or made private now. Still, what an acknowledgement of guilt that she removed it. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard of such a clear case of libel where the defendants willingly put it out in such a public manner. I’d love to be the attorney in this case!

Tom

December 1st, 2010
12:10 pm

Bill, you’re a murderer.

See you in court.

Bill Williams

December 1st, 2010
12:14 pm

Haha, thanks, Tom. If I had a case with the merits that McBerry has, I would probably take you up on the offer!

Tom

December 1st, 2010
12:16 pm

If you change your mind, contact my attorneys…..Dewey, Cheatham & Howe.

;-)

HMMMMM

December 1st, 2010
12:18 pm

@Tom. LOL!!!! And the reason Mrs. Pittman took it down, was not because of guilt but because as a family they were trying to get past it. So before you start saying people are guilty try to get the whole story, what was it? Oh yea what everyone was yelling when this was going on, get BOTH sides of the story. If you want to say someone is guilty, how about McBerry because he has never gave his side of the story, just deny, deny deny, how is that not guity?

John

December 1st, 2010
12:18 pm

Did anyone notice that the actual post that calls McBerry a child molester was taken down at some point?

How can a post that no longer exists be damaging?

Aquagirl

December 1st, 2010
12:21 pm

Bill, I’d love to see you as the attorney in this case too. I’d get a big bowl of popcorn and watch y’all get slammed badly enough to induce permanent rectal bleeding.

Tom

December 1st, 2010
12:22 pm

Does anyone know if Ray has gone back to his previous job/hobby of takling pictures of teenaged girls in bikinis?

Just askin’……

Alabama Communist

December 1st, 2010
1:24 pm

The good news for McBerry is that he asked for Judge Jesus to conduct the trial without a jury………

Keith

December 1st, 2010
1:52 pm

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have hired McBerry as their PR spokesperson. There goes their credibility.

Tired of BS

December 1st, 2010
2:03 pm

How can McBerry explain away the countless numbers of outside people who have told similar stories about him?
Was he himself a victim of sexual assault at an early age? I’ve heard that many times they go on to abuse other children. Maybe he doesn’t recognize his behavior as criminal….. something is surely wrong with this man.
Has his father lawyered him up so as not to make himself look bad in the whole Ray McBerry saga? So many questions about a man who most would really rather forget about.

McBerry

December 1st, 2010
2:09 pm

Was that wrong?
Should I not have done that?
You know if someone would have told me that kind of behavior was frowned upon…

McDingler

December 1st, 2010
4:41 pm

I disagree with the blanket dismissal of semantics. Didn’t this child claim that she was touched on her girl parts by someone who is inarguably a public figure? Also, the age of 16 may be relevant for purposes of statutory rape, but that is NOT the allegation. By all RELEVANT legal definitions, 16 years old is below majority and is considered to be a child.

[...] her 16-year-old daughter, Sexton and Knighton operate a blog called SWGA Politics. According to the AJC the suit charges that “Mrs. Pittman “stated falsely, with actual malice, that [McBerry] had [...]

JB

December 1st, 2010
6:09 pm

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henry county mom

December 1st, 2010
11:06 pm

Seen Ray hanging out at party time plus in mcdonough to see little girls. He even does their commercials with a sick smile at the owners small daughters.

Pornokontac

December 1st, 2010
11:21 pm

Спасибо понравилось ! Thanks !

Bill Williams

December 1st, 2010
11:26 pm

Because this type of libel case is “pro se,” damages are assumed. And since the defendants calling McBerry a “child molester” is already a public record, if this goes to court the only thing remaining will be for the judge/jury to determine the amount of damages. The comment about the three defendants “not having anything to get” is not exactly so. McBerry’s attorney can attach all of the assets of the spouses of all three defendants, too, and can basically garnish all income for the next twenty years if necessary to fulfill the total award after all homes and possessions have been sold. And since most of these kind of cases are taken by attorneys on a contingency basis, McBerry’s attorney will probably go for the jugular and want the case to go to court, which would eliminate any chance of the defendants getting a settlement agreement.