Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Sues Over Accusations That He Is a “Recidivist” and a “Criminal”

The trouble is that it appears that he does indeed have a criminal record. The complaint, in Richey v. Walker (Ga. Super. Ct. May 3, 2012) is based on these statements on the Georgia Politics Unfiltered blog:

  1. “Rashad Richey, the person in charge of making political decisions for Georgia Democratic Party, has a history of making poor personal decisions.”
  2. “The money raised from this event will help keep Rashad Richey the Recidivist on the Democratic payroll for a long time.”
  3. “We now know what Ali Rashad Richie used all that cash for … Bail money.”
  4. “So, a criminal is in charge of directing Democratic politics across Georgia.”
  5. “Ali Rashad Richie, political director for Georgia’s Democratic Party is a jail bird. Rashad Richie is a recidivist.”

The complaint seems to be arguing that this is false because “recidivist” means someone who has committed more than one felony, and “Plaintiff is not a convicted Felon.”

But WSB-TV reports that, “Richey had a series of misdemeanor convictions for criminal trespass and simple battery. Channel 2 Action News has now learned Richey also had a felony conviction for aggravated assault in 1998 but was sentenced as a first-time offender. When he completed his sentence, the felony was wiped from his record.” GPB News reports that Richey’s “attorneys confirm that Richey has been arrested for a variety of misdemeanor charges, including driving with a revoked license, battery, obstructing an officer and family violence.” (Note that this is confirmation of the arrest record, and not of a conviction record, but the WSB-TV story states there was a conviction record, and nothing in the GPB News story denies that.) A quick criminal history search of my own revealed Richey’s aggravated assault conviction, and another site posts a 2007 arrest report based on a separate incident. Nor have I seen any indication that WSB-TV is mistaken about the series of misdemeanor convictions.

So Richey’s only argument seems to be that calling someone with several misdemeanor conviction and one felony conviction that was expunged (just because it was a first offense, and not on the grounds that Richey had been exonerated) a “recidivist” is recklessly or knowingly false because “recidivist” is reserved for people with multiple felony convictions. But I don’t think that the term is limited to felonies in ordinary language, and I don’t think reasonable readers of the blog would have so understood the word; rather, a typical lay reader would likely see it as simply accusation of multiple criminal offenses — an accusation that appears to be true.

I should note that if the statement “[w]e now know what Ali Rashad Richie used all that cash for … Bail money” would have reasonably been seen as a charge of embezzlement of funds, that might be libelous. But I didn’t see any reference to that in the Complaint, which suggests that in context it was likely seen just as a dig at his criminal record, rather than a serious accusation of misappropriation of funds.

Oh, and according to WSB-TV, “Richey’s attorneys believe the series of blogs are borderline harassment and constitute a form of cyberbullying.”