A jury in South Carolina awarded $50 million in damages to a mayor in a defamation case towards a longtime critic.
The Beaufort County jury determined Thursday that Skip Hoagland has to pay Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka $40 million in precise damages and $10 million in punitive damages, The Island Packet reported.
Hoagland – who wasn’t within the courtroom all through the trial or when the verdicts had been learn – laughed when the newspaper knowledgeable him of the end result.
“That’s a joke, proper? … That’s madness,” he stated. Hoagland represented himself within the case after firing a lawyer that his insurance coverage firm employed
Sulka filed the lawsuit towards Hoagland over emails he despatched in 2015 and 2017 to a number of individuals together with the state legal professional normal. The mayor claimed there have been defamatory statements within the messages, comparable to accusations that she dedicated a criminal offense and was unfit for workplace.
“An examination of the Defendant’s rambling and at instances incoherent emails can result in just one conclusion: the Defendant had each cause to know that his statements lacked veracity, but he continued to publish them with vigor,” Sulka’s attorneys wrote in a 2019 courtroom submitting.
In the course of the two-day trial, the mayor described the impacts these messages have had on her: “It actually hits your psyche, it actually impacts you. I’m his goal now, personally.”
Hoagland has incessantly and vocally critiqued the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, which some elected officers have spoken out towards for its failure to share the way it spends public cash.
Daniel Henderson, one of many mayor’s attorneys, stated Hoagland began a “campaign” towards Sulka after the city helped the Chamber of Commerce with a membership drive in 2015. Her attorneys stated in a submitting that Hoagland believed the drive “unfairly benefitted” the Hilton Head chamber on the expense of the Larger Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
“Mayor Sulka, I hope you totally perceive the severity of this as a public official if that is true on utilizing public funds to try to place one enterprise out of enterprise,” Hoagland wrote in a 2015 e mail to the mayor, city legal professional, state legal professional normal, lawmakers and others.
The next 12 months, he filed a criticism with the State Ethics Fee towards the mayor, claiming she voted in favor of land purchases that financially benefitted the actual property company the place she labored. The fee ultimately cleared her of allegations that she violated the state ethics legislation.
Sulka’s attorneys argued within the lawsuit that the “defamatory statements” had been revealed with malice and harm the mayor’s status.
Hoagland shared his ideas with the trial choose, the legal professional normal and others by e mail as a substitute of taking part within the proceedings in particular person.
“There may be zero proof I defamed anybody,” Hoagland wrote Wednesday evening. “The primary modification permits me to train my free speech rights to criticize, and make clear, public corruption.”
He informed The Island Packet in a press release Thursday that he was really pleased with the trial’s end result as a result of it proved there’s “extra corruption” in South Carolina.
“This case was all predetermined, a sham, Judicial Malfeasance … I’ll now search damages for violations to my First Modification Rights brought on by this lawless, filthy, frivolous defamation lawsuit to silence a critics voice,” he wrote.
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