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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSen. Hansen Files Defamation Suit Against V.I. Radio Host

Sen. Hansen Files Defamation Suit Against V.I. Radio Host

Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen this week has filed a defamation suit against radio host Jamila Russell and Reef Broadcasting , something U.S. officials rarely try because several U.S. Supreme Court decisions make it difficult for an elected official to prevail.

Hansen accuses Jamila Russell of making several purportedly false and defamatory statements on her Reef Broadcasting radio show on AM radio channel 1620. Most of the complaint attacks Senate President Ronald Russell for paying Jamila Russell as a media consultant while Jamila Russell was simultaneously hosting a radio show, alleging Ronald Russell paid Jamila Russell to defame Hansen. However, Hansen is not suing Ronald Russell.

Several of the purportedly false and defamatory statements appear to be personal opinions about public matters, rather than verifiable fact or falsehood. For instance, Hansen claims she was criticized on-air for opposing a recent 8-percent government pay cut and this criticism amounts to defamation, saying in her lawsuit "Jamila Russell and Defendants attacked (Hansen) by falsely claiming she was grandstanding, trying to fool the people."

Hansen also alleges Reef Broadcasting and Jamila Russell illegally defamed her as an elected official by saying a letter Hansen wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama "made (Hansen) an embarrassment to the Virgin Islands." The contents of that letter were not described in the lawsuit. There is no discussion of the evidence proving Hansen is or is not "an embarrassment to the Virgin Islands," or what might make it a factual question rather than a personal opinion.

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Hansen also complains Jamila Russell falsely said Hansen "thief plenty and she trying to thief again (with PDG Global)."

More concretely, Hansen is also suing Jamila Russell for allegedly saying Hansen "committed criminal acts in connections with Ashley Andrews" and the sewer project and that Ashley Andrews is in jail, while (Hansen) is "getting away with it"; when actually Andrew’s charges and conviction were not related to Hansen."

And she says Jamila Russell slandered her by saying Hansen is a convicted felon when she is not and that she defaulted on an agreement with the government to pay her back taxes when she is current on payments.

Hansen was originally charged in relation to the Andrews case, but several of the charges were dropped and a jury found her not guilty on the rest. Ultimately she was convicted of several misdemeanor (non-felony) counts of failure to file an income tax return.

This is not Hansen’s first defamation suit against a news outlet. She sued the V.I. Daily News for defamation in 2003 for its reporting of federal public corruption charges against her. She later dropped the suit. Libel suits brought by elected officials against media outlets are rare and rarely successful since the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. In that case, the New York Times was sued for defamation for factual errors in its negative coverage of the Alabama police’s treatment of Martin Luther King

The court established that in order to collect damages a public official must prove “actual malice,” as well as either knowledge that what was printed was false or a complete disregard to its truth or falsity.
In a landmark decision helping to shape local law, the V.I. Supreme Court recently tossed out retired V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall’s defamation suit against the V.I. Daily News.

The justices said Kendall had not met the burden of proof, citing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harte-Hanks v. Connaughton (1989), that actual malice means the statement was made either with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard for the truth and "(t)here must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth " of the publication.

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Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen this week has filed a defamation suit against radio host Jamila Russell and Reef Broadcasting , something U.S. officials rarely try because several U.S. Supreme Court decisions make it difficult for an elected official to prevail.

Hansen accuses Jamila Russell of making several purportedly false and defamatory statements on her Reef Broadcasting radio show on AM radio channel 1620. Most of the complaint attacks Senate President Ronald Russell for paying Jamila Russell as a media consultant while Jamila Russell was simultaneously hosting a radio show, alleging Ronald Russell paid Jamila Russell to defame Hansen. However, Hansen is not suing Ronald Russell.

Several of the purportedly false and defamatory statements appear to be personal opinions about public matters, rather than verifiable fact or falsehood. For instance, Hansen claims she was criticized on-air for opposing a recent 8-percent government pay cut and this criticism amounts to defamation, saying in her lawsuit "Jamila Russell and Defendants attacked (Hansen) by falsely claiming she was grandstanding, trying to fool the people."

Hansen also alleges Reef Broadcasting and Jamila Russell illegally defamed her as an elected official by saying a letter Hansen wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama "made (Hansen) an embarrassment to the Virgin Islands." The contents of that letter were not described in the lawsuit. There is no discussion of the evidence proving Hansen is or is not "an embarrassment to the Virgin Islands," or what might make it a factual question rather than a personal opinion.

Hansen also complains Jamila Russell falsely said Hansen "thief plenty and she trying to thief again (with PDG Global)."

More concretely, Hansen is also suing Jamila Russell for allegedly saying Hansen "committed criminal acts in connections with Ashley Andrews" and the sewer project and that Ashley Andrews is in jail, while (Hansen) is "getting away with it"; when actually Andrew's charges and conviction were not related to Hansen."

And she says Jamila Russell slandered her by saying Hansen is a convicted felon when she is not and that she defaulted on an agreement with the government to pay her back taxes when she is current on payments.

Hansen was originally charged in relation to the Andrews case, but several of the charges were dropped and a jury found her not guilty on the rest. Ultimately she was convicted of several misdemeanor (non-felony) counts of failure to file an income tax return.

This is not Hansen's first defamation suit against a news outlet. She sued the V.I. Daily News for defamation in 2003 for its reporting of federal public corruption charges against her. She later dropped the suit. Libel suits brought by elected officials against media outlets are rare and rarely successful since the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. In that case, the New York Times was sued for defamation for factual errors in its negative coverage of the Alabama police's treatment of Martin Luther King

The court established that in order to collect damages a public official must prove “actual malice,” as well as either knowledge that what was printed was false or a complete disregard to its truth or falsity.
In a landmark decision helping to shape local law, the V.I. Supreme Court recently tossed out retired V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall's defamation suit against the V.I. Daily News.

The justices said Kendall had not met the burden of proof, citing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harte-Hanks v. Connaughton (1989), that actual malice means the statement was made either with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard for the truth and "(t)here must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth " of the publication.