Lucas lawsuit dismissed

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2021

State Sen. L. Louise Lucas’s $20 million defamation lawsuit against Virginia Beach-based attorney Tim Anderson has been dismissed.

Lucas represents Virginia’s 18th District, which includes parts of Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry counties as well as parts of the cities of Franklin and Suffolk.

She filed the lawsuit last year in response to Anderson’s having publicly claimed the senator’s actions at a June 10, 2020, Confederate monument protest in Portsmouth constituted a felony. The suit argued Anderson knew his claims to be false when he made them during a WAVY-TV interview and in a video posted to his law firm’s social media.

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Retired Chesterfield County Judge Herbert Gill Jr., according to WAVY’s coverage of the July 28 hearing, pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan, which restricts the ability of elected officials to sue for defamation based on the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protections.

Lucas retained Verbena Askew, a former Newport News judge, as her attorney for the civil case. Anderson was represented by former Virginia solicitor general Bill Hurd.

Anderson had claimed Lucas had incited a riot — a felony in Virginia — by virtue of having been caught on camera the day of the protest telling Portsmouth police the protesters were planning “to put some paint on this thing,” referring to the city’s now-removed Confederate monument, and “Y’all cannot arrest them.”

Several hours after Lucas left, a man was severely injured when protesters caused a piece of the monument to fall on him.

Two months after the incident, Portsmouth police did indeed charge her with a felony — two, in fact: conspiracy to commit a felony and “injuring” a monument valued in excess of $1,000.

Police had obtained warrants against her and 18 other protesters — a list that included the president and vice president of Portsmouth’s NAACP chapter, a city school board member and public defenders — by sending McGee to Magistrate Mandy Owens rather than providing Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales with the complete results of their investigation. Police had argued Morales could be called as a witness in the pending cases, but a Richmond-based judge struck down that argument last October, putting the prosecutions back into Morales’ hands.

Morales then petitioned the court to drop all charges, arguing the defendants had a valid entrapment-by-estoppel defense. The term refers to when government officials assure a defendant that his or her conduct is lawful, in this case by not intervening the day of the incident, and then prosecutes that person after the fact. The city fired its chief of police, Angela Greene, the same day as Lucas’s charges were dismissed.

Anderson, who is now running as a Republican for the House of Delegates’ 83rd District, made the same claims when starting a recall petition last year. He discontinued his involvement with the petition after Lucas filed her defamation suit, and turned the recall effort over to Virginia Tea Party Chairman Nelson Velez. A Chesapeake Circuit Court judge dismissed the petition July 2, agreeing with lawyers for the Democratic senator that Virginia’s law allowing voters to recall elected officials doesn’t apply to state senators, since the Constitution of Virginia states a member can only be expelled following a two-thirds Senate vote.

Lucas has another lawsuit pending. This one, which seeks $6.7 million in damages, accuses Greene and McGee of having worked together last year to bring baseless criminal charges against her following the monument incident.