Slashed: $10 million WVIR verdict
A jury handed Jesse Sheckler the largest defamation verdict ever in Virginia– $10 million– for WVIR Channel 29's repeated reports that authorities had confiscated 50 grams of crack and 500 grams of powder cocaine at Sheckler's Stanardsville home and business in May.
Sheckler was acquitted of drug conspiracy charges November 2001, and no drugs were ever found on his property.
Judge Edward L. Hogshire has set aside the $10 million verdict in a November 7 opinion and given Sheckler the option of taking a $1 million award or having a new trial just to determine damages.
"I'm very upset," says Sheckler, who has until November 21 to decide. "I don't understand. Here the jury finds them completely guilty, and the judge says it affects the First Amendment."
Sheckler says he still is on medication for depression, and that he still has nightmares. "I haven't decided what I'm going to do," he says.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO