Attorney Wants $5 Million from WAVY in Defamation Case

By Kevin Eck 

wavy logoThe Virginian-Pilot reports a local attorney is suing WAVY for $5 million.

The attorney, Sterling Weaver, is representing himself in the defamation case against the Portsmouth, VA, NBC affiliate. Weaver claims the station “maligned him” while reporting about his arrest on an assault charge.

In a Feb. 6 newscast, WAVY reported that Weaver had been indicted on felony assault and misdemeanor sexual battery charges for an alleged incident involving a female deputy in a Portsmouth courtroom.

The deputy accused Weaver of inappropriately touching her.

During that report, WAVY also said it “did some digging into Weaver’s past” and discovered that he had been convicted of assault and sentenced to 30 days in jail for grabbing a prosecutor by the throat in 2006, according to the lawsuit.

The station, however, failed to report that Weaver appealed that case to a Circuit Court judge who dismissed it after Weaver remained on good behavior for a year, the suit says. He did not serve jail time in that case.

Weaver, who is representing himself, says in the lawsuit that he was lying on the floor of the Portsmouth City Jail after his February arrest when he heard WAVY’s newscast about his case.

The report, he says, “falsely portrayed the plaintiff as being a previously convicted criminal” and the reporting was done “with a reckless disregard of the truth.” He called the report “scandalous, malicious and defamatory.”

The suit also says Weaver’s “good name and standing in the community” have been injured and he has been “held up to scorn, ridicule and disgrace among his neighbors, business acquaintances, friends and other good citizens.”

WAVY admits in its response only that it aired a short segment on Weaver but otherwise denies the defamation allegations.

The broadcasts, the station says, “were prepared in good faith, without actual malice and for the purpose of informing the public of a matter of general public interest.”

Messages left Wednesday for WAVY general manager Doug Davis and the station’s attorney, Brett Spain, were not returned.

In the case from February, Weaver entered an Alford plea to a reduced misdemeanor assault charge. An Alford plea means he did not admit guilt but acknowledged the evidence was likely sufficient for a conviction. The misdemeanor sexual battery charge was dropped.

He was given a six-month suspended sentence and ordered to remain on good behavior for two years.