published Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Tennessee judge throws out lawsuit against Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

Chuck Fleischmann
Chuck Fleischmann
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A Nashville judge has thrown out a 3-year-old defamation case filed by a former state GOP staffer against Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and one of his longtime aides.

Former Tennessee Republican Party official Mark Winslow filed the suit in January 2011 against the state party, Fleischmann and Chip Saltsman.

The suit claimed Fleischmann obtained confidential documents from the state party related to Winslow’s severance pay and then used the information in television ads aimed at defeating Winslow’s former boss, Robin Smith, who challenged Fleischmann in the 2010 primary. It also claimed the ads showed Winslow in a false light.

In the process, Winslow claims he was defamed. The suit asked for $750,000 in damages. Winslow claimed in his suit that he has not been able to get employment with other Republican groups or candidates.

In November, the state GOP settled with Winslow. The details of that settlement were not disclosed.

But in a summary judgment last week, Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Joe Binkley Jr. said Winslow was a public figure, and that he failed to show that Fleischmann and Saltsman showed actual malice against him in the advertisements, which were mainly aimed at discrediting Smith.

Further, Judge Binkley said that what was said about Winslow were facts.

“To the extent that any of the subject publications/communications pertained to plaintiff Mark A. Winslow, those publications/communications were either true or substantially true and, therefore, not actionable,” Binkley wrote.

Through a spokesman, Rep. Fleischmann said he was pleased by the ruling.

“I am obviously pleased with this decision. We always felt this was a frivolous case and would be dismissed due to its lack of merit, and that’s clearly what happened,” he said.

Paul Ney, attorney for Saltsman, echoed Fleischmann’s comments, saying the suit had no merit.

Gary Blackburn, an attorney for Winslow, did not return a telephone calls last week and Monday.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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