Virginia Supreme Court rejects trooper’s appeal, ending her defamation claim
A Virginia State Trooper has lost her appeal of a lawsuit in which she accused a former Mechanicsville man of defamation.
The Virginia Supreme Court refused Trooper Melanie McKenney’s petition for appeal in her $1.35 million lawsuit against Nathan Cox, ending a protracted legal dispute.
At the heart of the case was the right of citizens to video traffic stops and police interaction for publication on social media.
Cox, 37, an Army veteran who served in Iraq during the Iraq War, has operated a law enforcement watchdog website, Virginia Cop Block. McKenney pulled him over during a traffic stop in 2012. He was subsequently charged for not displaying a license plate on the front of his vehicle and another non-moving vehicle violation.
During the course of the traffic stop, Cox used his cell phone to video the interaction with McKenney, and she attempted to grab it and take it away from him.
Cox, who now lives in Brevard County, Florida, later posted a video on the Internet of the traffic stop with his comments. McKenney filed a lawsuit against Cox in Hanover County alleging his remarks constituted defamation. The original case, claiming $5,000 in damages was dismissed, but McKenney filed a second similar lawsuit seeking $1.35 million in damages.
All of McKenney’s claims eventually were dismissed by the trial court, but she appealed.
The Virginia Supreme Court rejected her appeal Jan. 23, saying in its ruling there was “no reversible error.”
“Accordingly, the Court refuses the petition for appeal,” the high court ruled.
“Nathan Cox’s nightmare is finally over,” said Thomas Roberts, a Richmond attorney whose law firm defended Cox based on legal procedure and the First Amendment right to free speech.
McKenney’s last claim at the trial court was based on a statement Cox made when he was invited to speak to a group of University of Richmond law students in 2015. He told the students that the trooper “pretty much assaulted me.”
Attorneys for Cox opposed McKenney’s appeal, arguing it had no basis. Her concession that she “frisk[ed] him a little bit and things like that” was sufficient factual ground to legitimize Cox’s opinion that McKenney “pretty much assaulted” him, they argued, and the trial court dismissed her claim.
Freedom Works Foundation helped Cox pay some of his legal fees, and Roberts has established a website to raise more funds. You can find the legal fund HERE. (www.gofundme.com/constitutional-liberties-matter).
Virginia State Troopers take a pledge to obey the laws of the United States and Virginia, and to defend the constitutions of both, Roberts noted on the website. “Unless somebody holds government servants faithful to the pledge, it is meaningless and your liberties are at risk,” he wrote.
“Nathan Cox has shouldered the burden of protecting your rights…He has stood in the breach, he has done his part. Will you do yours?”
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