Forgery trial continued for publicist to the stars

Posted 2/1/08; updated 2/2/08.

After a year of anticipation, Buckingham publicist and chicken farmer Tommy Garrett will have to wait another week to have his day in court. At 2pm Friday, February 1, Garrett was set to face 11 counts related to allegedly forging checks, nearly a year after the trial was first continued in February 2007. However, multiple defense witnesses did not show up to Buckingham General District Court, and after 45 minutes of waiting, all parties agreed to continue the trial to next Friday, February 8.

When the trial finally does take place, it will be the latest in a long line of odd events that have put Garrett in the public eye. The website for Garrett's ICONS Public Relations boasts a client list including actors Clint Walker, Ruta Lee, and Rex Reason; he hosted the Hollywood retrospective series Somewhere in Time on local CBS affiliate WCAV; in June 2006, he sent out a press release announcing he was attending the funerals of both TV producer Aaron Spelling and bereaved mother Patsy Ramsey; he released another statement heralding the cover story about him in Senior Magazine (a publication of whose existence the Hook could find no evidence); and in 2007 he appeared on Ed Begley Jr.'s HGTV reality program Living with Ed, to help Begley's wife, Rachelle Carson, choose her wardrobe for the Sundance Film Festival. Said Begley of Garrett on the show, "I didn't really see eye to eye with Rachelle's friend."

Apparently, neither did Charles Colbert, the Bremo Bluff funeral home director for whom Garrett worked until 1995, when Garrett sued Colbert for $930,000 for defamation, back pay, reneging on a promissory note, and emotional distress relating to Garrett's charges of racism and necrophilia. A jury disagreed about the indecent liberties, but awarded Garrett $41,000 since Colbert had accused Garrett of stealing without being able to prove such a charge.

When asked if he would answer a few questions following the proceedings Garrett told the Hook, "You can ask all you want, but I probably won't answer since your publication called me a 'colored boy,'" before saying to an unidentified friend, "These are the people I'm going to sue next."

Garrett refers to a February 22, 2007 Hook article "Publicist charged: 15 forgery counts continued," in which a Hook reporter wrote that, soon after she spoke with Garrett and his attorney, she received an anonymous voice mail from someone claiming to be an 85-year-old woman, making allegations about Garrett's accuser's mental health, and bemoaning those who wanted to "ruin that poor little colored boy."

When Garrett referred the Hook's questions to his legal representative, Farmville attorney James E. Ghee, the attorney declined to answer the Hook's questions.

Ghee (pictured at right) has some experience with charges of money mishandling himself, having been convicted in 1996 of 11 misdemeanor counts of embezzlement and in the process losing his license to practice law. Perhaps he got it back? While a search on Martindale-Hubbell found no lawyers registered in Virginia with the last name Ghee, a search of the Virginia State Bar indicates that Ghee is listed; he just doesn't have malpractice insurance.

Ghee is considered something of an icon in Farmville, a racially troubled spot in the 1960s where school segregation was fought all the way to the Supreme Court, and where Ghee became the town's first African-American lawyer. Such was his stature that despite his mid-1990s misdeeds, Julian Bond nominated him for the NAACP board in 1998.

#

Read more on: defamationtommy garrett