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Harris, Woods retract lawsuit, file claim in chancery court

By Kayla Carter and
Keeli Parkey
Staff Writers
Former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris and his uncle, Kenny Woods, have retracted a libel lawsuit filed in the Unicoi County Sessions Court against John Day for $1 and court fees, but have instead filed another claim in chancery court for a larger sum of money.
On Thursday, Mountain City attorney H. Randolph Fallin, legal counsel for Harris and Woods, filed a Complaint for Injunctive Relief and Monetary Damages in the Chancery Court for Unicoi County.
The complaint states that Harris and Woods are seeking a total of $250,000 in damages from John Day for actions which, the complaint states, caused “irreparable harm” to Harris and Woods.
A section of the complaint reads:
“Approximately one (1) year prior to this date (Day) and or agents working for him began a campaign against the plaintiffs herein for the primary purpose of injuring the plaintiffs reputation in their community, interfering with the employment of Kenny Woods and generally spreading false and malicious information the purpose of which and result of which was to damage the plaintiffs both their employment as well as their standing in the community.
“The defendant has used a variety of social media including facebook, the topix website on the internet, letters to the editor and derogatory tracks that were prepared and left at the plaintiff, Kent Harris’, church.”
The complaint goes on to say that as a former public official Harris “realizes that normal political discourse in the community as well as public comments on his outstanding legal troubles can be fair game for discussion in various public forums, however, the defendants actions cross the acceptable line. The plaintiff, Kenny Wood, is not a public figure in any sense of the word therefore he is not fair game in terms of the discussions concerning him in a public forum or in the social media as set forth above.”
The complaint also alleges that Day’s reported actions have “injured” Harris and Woods “both emotionally and monetarily.”
The reputations of Harris and Woods have also allegedly “suffered in the community.”
“Some of the information ‘put out for public consumption’ by the defendant or persons acting in concert with him contains outright falsehoods, exaggerations, and misrepresentations to the extent that the true facts could never be recognized,” the complaint states. “It is impossible for the plaintiffs to appropriately respond to each and every one of the attacks therefore have turned to this court for relief.”
The complaint goes on to state that “the damages suffered by the plaintiffs arise from a reckless disregard of the truth by the defendant and that these actions were malicious and with the full intent to injure the plaintiffs in every way possible.
According to the complaint, Harris and Woods are seeking $50,000. This amount, the complaint states, “adequately compensates them for their actual losses.” They are also seeking $200,000 in punitive damages for Day’s alleged “reckless and malicious pattern of activity.”
Harris and Woods are also seeking a temporary injunction, a permanent injunction and court costs, according to the complaint.
The hearing in this case is scheduled for Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. The case is scheduled to be heard in the Chancery Court of Unicoi County by Chancellor Richard Johnson.
In conjunction with the former libel lawsuit, on Monday, July 16, Day submitted a request for production to the Unicoi County General Sessions Court for materials involved in the lawsuit.
Day said the he feels he has acted in a legal manner in regard to county official activities, especially in regard to Harris. He feels the lawsuit is a rebuttal to past disagreements between him and Harris.
“This whole attack on me by Kent Harris and his family began when I started doing research for the county commissioners on his budget,” Day said.
A year ago, Harris presented a budget in the small courtroom in which Day said he was avidly against. “Their whole thrust is to stop me from speaking the truth about their activities,” Day said. “Everything I’ve said is the truth and when we go to court the truth will come out. I’m not going to stop speaking the truth on behalf of the people in the county.”
Day said he has read in various articles that Harris and Woods have stated it’s not about money, but he thinks that is not true. “It’s all about me telling the truth,” he said.
Day said that his actions have helped others in the community to speak out instead of fearing the local government. “What I’ve been is a catalyst,” Day said. “I won’t be silenced by coercion, losses or physical threats someone might bring upon me. I’m not going to be intimidated. I will always fight back.”
Day said that he is in the process of seeking information regarding his legal options.
“I’m going to be doing my own research into my legal options I’ll be pursuing those once I determine what the best course of action is going to be. The truth is going to be that I’ve spoken the truth.”