Buckingham sheriff sues PAC for $3.35 million
The heated Buckingham sheriff's race just got hotter. Sheriff Danny Williams, who's in a fiercely contested race against William G. "Billy" Kidd, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Buckingham Good Government League, a political action committee that supports Kidd.
"In Virginia, it is illegal to willfully attempt to damage one's livelihood and reputation by false statements," says Glen Allen attorney Michael Lafayette, who's representing Williams.
When the ad was first printed, Lafayette asked the PAC to print a retraction or provide proof of its claims. "Their statements are so ludicrous, of course they couldn't prove them," he says. "You can have an opinion," but Williams objects to the Buckingham Good Government League's claims that the sheriff and his deputies are intimidating citizens.
"We endorsed Billy Kidd because we didn't like what we saw in the other guy," says Don Shumaker, chairman of the PAC and one of the defendants in the lawsuit. "All the facts– we stand behind them because they're a matter of public record."
He says allegations about how Sheriff Williams spent drug money came from county records and a Board of Supervisors-authorized audit of Williams' handling of those funds, and that Buckingham Commonwealth's Attorney E. M. Wright is investigating citizen complaints of intimidation.
This is not the first time controversy has surrounded the Buckingham County Sheriff's office. In 2005, two people told the Hook about being strip-searched on the side of the road by Buckingham deputies on separate occasions. A drug-sniffing dog indicated a hit, but drugs were not found in either case. The Sheriff's office variously said the events didn't happen– or that the victims voluntarily took off their clothes.
Tracey Banks filed a $700,000 lawsuit against former Buckingham deputy Anthony "Tony" Lewis and claims he forced her to perform oral sex when he came to serve a warrant on March 23, 2005. Sheriff Williams is also named in that suit, which may go to court in December.
Elected officials rarely sue for defamation because they're considered public figures. "A lawsuit is the last remedy," says Lafayette. "Frankly, if they hadn't published any more, we would have not sued."
Sheriff Williams did not return a call from the Hook.