PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A $20.7 million defamation lawsuit filed by state Sen. Louise Lucas against Virginia Beach attorney and House of Delegates candidate Tim Anderson has been dismissed.
In the suit, Lucas alleged that Anderson “knew … information he stated involving Lucas’ involvement in Portsmouth’s Confederate monument controversy was untrue at the time he stated it…” and that “these words harmed Senator Lucas’ reputation, by lowering her in the community’s estimation…”
Retired Chesterfield Country Judge Herbert Gill Jr. pointed to the landmark Supreme Court case of New York Times v. Sullivan, which restricts the ability of American public officials to sue for defamation based on the First Amendment. Richmond-based defendant’s attorney Bill Hurd argued if this court agrees on the First Amendment, this case is over.
“A public official can have a case for defamation only in rare instances,” said Hurd.
Anderson alleged that Lucas told police to stand down and not arrest any protesters last summer at a protest on June 10, 2020 at the Confederate monument, which eventually culminated in a man being seriously injured. Anderson said Lucas helped incite a riot, which is a felony in Virginia.
Anderson posted a video days after the protests at the monument, saying “Senator Lucas told the crowd which turned into a riot, ‘Hey don’t worry about the police, I’m here you can do whatever you want with this statue. That is inciting a riot and we know that because that is what the code section of Virginia says.”
Lucas was recorded on body camera video earlier that day saying “I’m telling you, you can’t arrest them” to police in regard to protesters at the monument.
“I’m Senator Louise Lucas,” she said to officers. “I know I’m in disguise, but they are going to put some paint on this thing. You can not arrest them. You need to call Dr. Patton [the previous city manager], because they are going to do it. You can’t stop them. This is city property.”
Lucas later told WAVY she never urged protesters to vandalize the monument and didn’t condone illegal activity.
Anderson, a Trump-style Republican running for the 83rd District in the House of Delegates, had put together a recall effort to have Lucas, the state’s most senior senator and Senate president pro tempore, recalled. However, it was dismissed earlier this month.
Immediately after the hearing, there was a tense exchange in the rear of the courtroom when Anderson approached Lucas and attempted to shake her hand. The GOP nominee faced Lucas and said “I look forward to working with you.” Lucas did not shake Anderson’s hand and snapped, “You will not be serving with me; we are going to work really hard…” The awkward exchange ended and both parties left the courtroom.
10 On Your Side’s Regina Mobley asked Lucas and Anderson about the exchange. Lucas attempted to deflect the terse nature of her response. “I am in the Senate of Virginia and he is running for the House of Delegates,” said Lucas. She went on to say her party will work hard to ensure a Democrat wins the 83rd District seat in November.
Anderson had this response: “We were trying to be gentlemen and respectful to her in her position and she responded the way she responded.”
Plaintiff’s attorney Verbena Askew, who is a former Newport News judge, called the Anderson case egregious and said her client will appeal. Askew told the court defamation addresses malice.
“He [Anderson] accused the senator of committing a felony, a misdemeanor and using Taliban-like tactics,” argued Askew.
Lucas has another pending civil case stemming from the destruction of the monument. She also recently filed a $6.7-million lawsuit against former Police Chief Angele Greene and one of the police department’s investigators. Lucas accuses them of arresting her on baseless felony charges.