ERWIN — Former Unicoi County sheriff Kent Harris and his uncle, Kenny Woods, have upped the ante against John Day as they are now seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages of at least $250,000 each.
On Thursday afternoon, H. Randolph Fallin, the Mountain City-based attorney now representing both Harris and Woods, filed notices of voluntary dismissal of the complaints previously filed in Unicoi County Civil Sessions Court.
Late last month, both Harris and Woods filed separate complaints against Day, spokesperson for the Unicoi County Citizens for Good Governance, accusing him of posting libelous remarks on June 19 to a website it was assumed he maintained. However, Day said Friday that he did not maintain the site. Harris and Woods were each seeking damages of $1 plus court costs. The website in question has been taken down.
Earlier this week, Day filed requests for production of documents including a witness list, a list of physicians and medical facilities that treated Harris for the brain injury he suffered in an August 2010 fall from the roof of the Unicoi County Jail, letters, and other materials pertaining to the cases. Hearings on both of the complaints were set for this Tuesday in Civil Sessions Court.
However, the same afternoon the voluntary dismissal notices were filed, Fallin filed a complaint on behalf of his clients in Unicoi County Chancery Court seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages from Day.
The complaint states that approximately one year ago, Day “and or agents working for him began a campaign” against Harris and Woods for the purpose of injuring their reputation in the community, interfering with Woods’ employment and “generally spreading false and malicious information the purpose of which and result of which was to damage the plaintiffs both their employment as well as their standing the in the community.”
The complaint alleges that Day has used a variety of outlets to accomplish this, including Facebook, the Topix website, letters to the editor, and “derogatory tracks” prepared and left at Harris’ church.
“The plaintiff, Kent Harris, was a public official and therefore realizes that normal political disclosure in the community as well as public comments on his outstanding legal troubles can be fair game for discussion in various public forums, however, the defendant’s actions cross the acceptable line,” the complaint states. “The plaintiff, Kenny Woods, is not a public figure in any sense of the word therefore he is not fair game in terms of the discussion concerning him in a public forum or in the social media as set forth above.”
It is alleged that information put out by Day or others working with him contains “outright falsehoods, exaggerations, and misrepresentations.”
“It is impossible for the plaintiffs to appropriately respond to each and every one of these attacks,” the complaint states.
The complaint states that Harris and Woods will show that they have been financially impaired as a result of Day’s actions, that the damages they suffered arise from a “reckless disregard of the truth,” and that the actions were carried out with a malicious intent to damage them. The complaint does not provide specific examples of statements allegedly made by Day.
“The plaintiffs would show that irreparable harm will occur unless the actions as set forth above by the defendant are enjoined and restrained both temporarily and permanently,” the complaint states.
Harris and Woods are each seeking compensation in an amount to exceed $50,000 for their actual losses due to Day’s alleged actions and $200,000 in punitive damages due to Day’s “reckless and malicious pattern of activity.”
Cases in which monetary damages in excess of $25,000 are sought cannot be heard in Civil Sessions Court, but instead must be filed in either Circuit or Chancery Court.
A temporary injunction, permanent injunction and costs are also being sought.
Fallin said the main item his clients are seeking is the injunction, with the money being a secondary concern. He also said he felt it would be inappropriate to comment further on the complaint at this time.
“It pretty much speaks for itself,” Fallin said of the complaint.
Day, who previously called the complaints filed in Civil Sessions Court an act of “bullying” on the parts of Harris and Woods, took a similar stance on the latest complaint.
“I haven’t officially been served, but it sounds like yet another attack on me and an attempt to prevent me from expressing my opinions, which my own right to free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Day said Friday afternoon.
A hearing in the matter has been set for Aug. 31 in Unicoi County Chancery Court.