Berryville Resident Kenneth Liggins is seeking to move the trial location and remove the presiding judge in his lawsuit against the Winchester Star. Liggins says that he is also contesting Star attorney Robert Mitchell’s attempt to have two of the lawsuit counts dismissed under statute of limitations exception.
Liggins filed a $30 million lawsuit the newspaper and two of its reporters charging the newspaper acted recklessly in its reporting of a 2008 Clarke County School Board meeting in which Liggins was ordered to stop speaking by School Board Chairman, Robina Bouffault during a public comment period.
On October 2, 2009, then-reporter Drew Houff wrote, “Deputies subsequently removed Liggins from the meeting.” Houff’s statement was subsequently repeated by Winchester Star reporters on October 16, 2009 and again on December 3, 2009. Liggins says that the Stars repeated publication of false information damaged his reputation in the community.
According to Liggins, Mitchell has asked Winchester Circuit Court Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. to dismiss both the October 2nd and 16th charges based on the expiration of a one year statute of limitations. However, Liggins claims that the any statute limiting his ability to bring the matter to court did not commence until April 7th, 2010, the last date of publication of what he believes was false reporting.
“I’m not barred by statute in this case because there were multiple offenses of the same crime” Liggins said. “The statute of limitations does not commence until the date of the last offence.”
The hearing on dismissal of Liggins October 2nd and 16th charges will be held on February 17.
In two separate motions filed today, Liggins asked that Judge Wetsel recuse himself from further involvement in the case and that the case be moved to a different venue because of community prejudice, Liggins says, that was generated by the Star’s false reporting in the 2008 Clarke County School Board case.
In Liggins’s change of venue motion he claims that the Star’s continued false and misleading reports caused him to be ridiculed in the community and that “false writing and false publication” would prevent him from receiving a fair trial.
With respect to Wetsel’s involvement in the trial, Liggins hopes to have a new judge appointed because Liggins believes that Judge Wetsel showed prejudice by a previous ruling in a lawsuit that Liggins filed in 2006. In the 2006 ruling, Liggins claims that Judge Wetsel improperly denied a motion by Liggins to declare the Town of Berryville’s annexation of the Milton Valley Cemetery unconstitutional.