Richmond County sheriff sues radio host for defamation

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March 27, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength says he's had enough of statements he calls lies being broadcast by local talk radio host Ryan B. and his station Rejoice 94.7.

Today he filed suit claiming they are ruining his reputation by calling him a murderer.

Being a public figure, the sheriff knows he's going to have critics. But he says he won't put up with anyone falsely accusing him of murder or of using drug money. He's suing Ryan B. and Rejoice 94.7 for defamation, accusing them of slander, libel, and damaging his reputation.

"When somebody comes out and accuses me of murder, I have a problem with that," Sheriff Strength told News 12.

The lawsuit quotes Ryan B. from a March 19th broadcast in which he says, "When you go back and look at his history, he's a murderer. The sheriff, Ronnie Strength, is a murderer. He shot somebody and left them in the woods, so he's a murderer, in my humble opinion."

Ryan B. told us he was giving his opinion based on comments made by a caller talking about a 1974 shooting on Olive Road.

"Where a person was shot and left in the woods for three days, and it was said and alleged that the sheriff was the person that was involved in that, and if that is in fact true, in my opinion, then the sheriff would be considered a murderer for leaving someone out in the woods," Ryan B. told News 12.

"That's defamation of character," said Sheriff Strength's attorney, Freddie Sanders. "That's not an opinion. You can't save yourself from being sued by finishing out by saying 'in my opinion'."

Sanders also says Ryan B. accused the sheriff of using drug money to pay for a membership to the Augusta Country Club.

The sheriff says it's all false. They're suing for $75,000 in damages.

"I'm not going to sit back and take it," Sheriff Strength said. "He's going to have to prove in a court of law what he said."

The sheriff's attorney says they will not seek damages if Ryan B. retracts his statements within three days. Either way, they still plan to sue on grounds of libel and slander.

We asked Ryan B. if he will retract his statements. He said he will speak with his attorneys.

This isn't the first time Ryan B. has been sued.

In August, talk radio rival Austin Rhodes took him to court in Aiken County.

Rhodes asked for a restraining order to prevent Ryan B. from broadcasting false statements about him.

The judge denied Rhodes' request but told Ryan B. that if a jury finds him guilty of defamation in that civil trial, he will have to pay serious damages.

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