Sheriff Ronnie Strength awarded millions

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, October 4, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength was called a murderer. He sued, and yesterday a judge awarded him millions. Today he talks about it Only on 12.

"I wasn't a rich person yesterday and I'm not a rich person today, but I sent the message I needed to send."

Sheriff Strength was awarded over $6 million in damages from a lawsuit filed against former local radio personality Brian Lamont Doyle, also known as Ryan B., and Rejoice 94.7 radio.

The claim was defamation of character. "I wasn't going to sit by and take it," he said. The issue was the sheriff and his family being called murderers on Ryan B's radio show. Sheriff Strength calls a lawsuit the next likely course of action and says that money had nothing to do with it.

"No, definitely not about money," he said. "It's about my reputation."

But what about freedom of speech?

Strength's lawyer, Freddie Sanders, says, "There is still a line that when you start thinking that you can take a microphone and turn it into a weapon and broadcast over the CSRA area that the top law enforcement official is a murderer, it needs to be stopped."

We spoke to Ryan B. by phone. He told us, "The sheriff is a public figure as well as myself and therefore there is a different standard that we're under when it comes to people speaking or making statements about us."

Strength contends, "We're fair game, and I don't have a problem with that. The biggest problem I had was not just saying that I was a murderer, but he brought in my mother and father. They're not here to defend themselves. I am, and that's what I did."

Both Ryan B. and the sheriff say they are looking to the future.

"I've got faith. I've got a new lawyer and I'm gonna move forward with the appeal process," Ryan B. said.

"I'm here for the community," said Sheriff Strength. "I was elected to do a job and that's what I'm focusing on, not what's going to come out of this...what I was elected to do, and that's what I'm going to do."

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