FORNEY, Texas — Former Precinct 2 Commissioner Ray Clark was awarded $774,700 in a defamation suit brought on by negative campaign mailers sent during his bid for re-election in 2014.
The charge of court, obtained by inForney.com, was entered Thursday evening after the four-day trial concluded.
Clark filed the defamation suit on March 24, 2014, alleging, according to the original petition, several defendants published a “purported news article entitled Stoney Adams Evades Child Molestation Charges for the Seventh Time, which contains false assertions of fact and false quotations which were intended to damage [Clark's] reputation prior to the election.”
A political mailer was subsequently delivered to Kaufman County Precinct 2 residents which contained quotes from the article published on myrighttoknow.org. The original petition claimed, “The mailer is replete with false statements of fact and unambiguously associates [Clark] with child molestation and corruption, and contains quotes and false statements from the article posted on myrighttoknow.org.”
The mailer alleged two-term Commissioner Clark's influence resulted in the dismissal of criminal charges involving a family member accused of child molestation.
Jurors unanimously found the article and mailer to be defamatory, according to the charge of the court, which defined defamatory as an "ordinary person would interpret the statements in a way that tends to injure Ray Clark's reputation and thereby expose Ray Clark to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or financial injury or to impeach Ray Clark's honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation."
10 of 12 jurors found the article and mailer to be false, meaning, according to the charge of the court, "not substantially true," or varied "from the literal truth in only minor details or it, in the mind of the average person, the gist of the statement is no more damaging to the person affected by it than a literally true statement would have been."
Jurors unanimously cleared Clark's then-2014 primary election challenger and now-Commissioner Skeet Phillips and Lacie Moore, formerly known as Lacie Adams, of knowing the statements in the article and mailer to be false and that they did not make the statements with a high degree of awareness that they were probably false, to an extent they in fact had serious doubts to the truth of those statements.
Instead, they found that Michael Hendrix, Ben Campbell, Your Right to Know, and Precise Agency Group LLC made those statements knowing them to be false with a high degree of awareness they were probably false. Each were named as defendants in the case and were paid political consultants for Phillips' campaign, according to campaign finance filings obtained by inForney.com.
In an interview with inForney.com, at the time the mailers were sent out, Phillips denied any involvement in the mailer.
“When it came out, it was like just a big shock to me as it was to everyone else," he said during that interview.
The jury unanimously determined Hendrix, Campbell, Your Right to Know, and Precise Agency Group LLC were part of a conspiracy that caused or contributed to damages to Clark and assigned percentages of responsibility at 50, 35, 10, and five percent, respectively. They assigned zero percentage of responsibility to Phillips and Moore.
Clark was awarded $274,700 in damages for past mental anguish resulting in the publication of the article and the mailer.
Additionally, jurors unanimously determined Hendrix acted with malice, with intent to cause substantial injury or harm to Clark, and ordered he pay an additional $500,000 as exemplary damages.
Your Right to Know and Precise Agency Group LLC, represented by Hendrix and Campbell, had previously consulted with several local and statewide campaigns. inForney.com is awaiting campaign finance filings locally and from the Texas Secretary of State.
This is a developing story.