Local Politics

Political ad leads to campaign lawsuit

Posted September 23, 2010
Updated September 24, 2010

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— A Republican candidate for 11th Senate District, which covers Wilson and Nash counties, filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday against his incumbent rival over a campaign flier.

The lawsuit filed in Wilson County Superior Court claims that Sen. A.B. Swindell and the Democratic Party knowingly made misleading statements against Eldon "Buck" Newton in a campaign mailer.

The flier refers to an incident in 1990 in which Newton was charged with eight counts of drug-related crimes after he was mistakenly implicated in an undercover drug operation.

The charges were dismissed after the Watauga County district attorney discovered the error, saying the incident was a case of mistaken identity. A police officer involved in the operation was later relieved of his duties, according to 1999 documents provided when Newton sought his attorney’s license.

“I have never ever been arrested on a drug charge. I was not arrested in this affair or any other drug affair,” Newton said Thursday during a news conference in Wilson.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and requests a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction requiring Swindell’s campaign and the Democratic Party to mail a retraction notice to everyone who received the mailer.

State GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer also described the campaign fliers as slanderous.

“This is libel and slander, pure and simple. This is a provable, demonstrable falsehood,” Fetzer said.

However, state Democratic Party Executive Director Andrew Whalen issued a statement Thursday defending the accuracy of the mailers.

"(Newton) was indicted by a grand jury of his peers four times for selling illegal narcotics to an undercover officer. He has still not explained how a police officer could buy illegal drugs four times from a man he thought was Buck Newton," Whalen stated.

Veteran Democratic strategist Gary Pearce said regardless of the lawsuit's outcome, candidates should err on the side of caution when attacking opponents.  

“To double check, to triple check, to realize that if you throw a bomb in a campaign, you may blow yourself up, instead of your opponent,” Pearce said.

Swindell has not responded to WRAL News' requests for comments on the issue.

64 Comments

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  • rdcress Sep 27, 2010

    Soyousay, do you need me to define those terms for you? Or do you have some point you're trying to make? Perhaps you could explain how these individuals do not fit that discription? But I guess that would be like discussing the real issue....

  • karenmarie Sep 24, 2010

    @Saturn ... that is what I said. The Constitution does NOT say a person 'is innocent until proven guilt*y'. The Fifth Amendment does not claim that either. Even bowing to *presumption* of innocence is not the same as innocence. The Constitution does not point to a murderer and claim he is innocent until a jury finds otherwise. The Constitution guarantees his due process rights which courts have defined to include the presumption of innocence until his fair trial proves him guilty. Only the truly innocent can be innocent and neither the Constitution nor court precedent say otherwise.

  • drnc Sep 24, 2010

    Farewell, A.B.

  • fmnnc Sep 24, 2010

    Well...this should just about to it for ole "A.B". He was on his way down but now it looks as though he is on his way out of the legislature. Very poor judgement. Like I've always heard...when in doubt...don't!

  • saturn5 Sep 24, 2010

    @karenmarie: "The Constitution does NOT say that a person 'is innocent until proven guilty'"

    Those exact words aren't used; however, the Fifth Amendment guarantees a right to "Due Process" which has the legal definition, in part, as "A law must be clear, fair, and have a presumption of innocence to comply with procedural due process."

    Read it for yourself: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am5

  • RTIwork Sep 24, 2010

    Why are democrats complaining about this? Obama is guilty of doing cocaine and they jump to defend him whenever it's brought up that it was when he was younger.

    Actually, Buck should claim he did do coke. Looking at the records of the last two Presidents, it would qualify him for an office much higher than the NC legislature.

  • cwood3 Sep 24, 2010

    Despirate people do despirate things. I could NEVER vote for a man of such little character. I doubt we will see him in Raleigh when the legislature conveens in January.

  • karenmarie Sep 24, 2010

    @saturn5 ... The Constitution does NOT say that a person 'is innocent until proven guilty'. No where in the Constitution, Declaration or Preamble does it say such a thing or even close. If you did it, you're guilty, no matter what. So you're not innocent unless you're truly innocent.

    The principal did not enter US law until a Supreme Court decision (coffin vs US) which reversed a lower court because the jury had not been instructed "The law presumes that persons charged with crime are innocent until they are proven by competent evidence to be guilty" in 1894.

    I'm not a lawyer.. I just think it is really important to read the Constitution and know at least something about it before posting stuff that is not even in it.

  • whatusay Sep 24, 2010

    Most politicians will do anything to keep their job. To knowingly print a false statement to harm an opponent is a crime, and Swindel should drop out of the race and make a public apology. We all know he won't, and that alone shows his character.

  • biddle8788 Sep 24, 2010

    Gary Pearce said it well. Double check and Triple check. "if you are going to throw a bomb in a campaign, you may blow yourself up instead of your opponent." Swindell is a desperate man going down for the count.

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