In November, four months after he was culled from the Republican race for governor, Ray McBerry filed a libel suit against a Henry County woman for referring to him, on a Facebook page, as a “child molester” during the campaign.
Several years earlier, Linda Pittman of Hampton, Ga., had lodged a complaint against McBerry – then a high school history teacher – for having an improper relationship with her 16-year-old daughter. McBerry, who admitted giving the young girl a cell phone for private chats, quickly quit his teaching position and was later sanctioned by the state.
The operators of a southwest Georgia political blog were also named in the McBerry suit – which may be one of the first in the state to challenge Internet-based political speech.
Pittman has now filed her answer to the lawsuit, drawn up by Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant, the former chairman of Common Cause of Georgia.
“All statements of opinion made by Mrs. Pittman of and concerning Ray McBerry and his qualifications and fitness for public office are absolutely privileged and immune from legal liability under the First Amendment,” the answer declares, in part.
“Essentially the same facts had been previously published to a state-wide audience by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as in several other publications, and were well known in the community, so that Mrs. Pittman’s statements caused no additional damage to Ray McBerry’s reputation[,] which was already bad.”
More important, Pittman’s lawyer served notice that he intends to delve deeply into McBerry’s private life. The former candidate for governor, who ran on a “states’ rights” platform, has been asked to provide a list of all those with whom he has enjoyed a “physically intimate, romantic, or sexual relationship.”
“Identify all instances in which you have been accused of any kind of sexual misconduct. For each such instance, identify the person(s) who accused you, the date of the misconduct, and the nature of the misconduct.
“To be clear, this interrogatory seeks information regarding all allegations of sexual misconduct, even if you contend that the allegation is without merit or untrue. Moreover, for the purposes of this interrogatory[,] there is no time limit. It is intended to cover your entire life.”
“List all telephone numbers (including mobile phones) and e-mail addresses you have used to communicate with anyone over the past two years. For mobile phones, include the carrier and state whether you sent or received any text messages using such phone(s).”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider