Appeals court dismisses libel suit against WTVF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The state appeals court has rejected a libel claim from a man after a local television station reported he was arrested while carrying bags of cash, gambling receipts and a sawed-off shotgun.

Brad Lewis was mentioned as part of a series of stories Nashville's WTVF-TV ran about his then-brother-in-law, Carl Dollarhide, formerly a major with the Metro Nashville Police Department.

On Aug. 9, 2000 the station reported that Dollarhide had been told to surrender his police credentials and weapon while he was under investigation for preventing Lewis from being taken into custody after he was stopped at a police roadblock and found to be carrying cash and a weapon.

Dollarhide resigned from the department, and the investigation was never concluded, although the final report stated the major "likely" would have been disciplined had he remained with the department.

Both Lewis and Dollarhide sued WTVF after the broadcast, claiming libel.

The case was dismissed by a lower court, and only Lewis chose to appeal the decision.

The appeals court upheld the dismissal in a ruling made public Monday, concluding that because the story was of great public interest and Lewis' identity was an important part of the story, he would have had to prove the station acted with "actual malice" in preparing and broadcasting it to succeed in his libel claim.

Actual malice is defined as acting "with knowledge of falsity or with reckless disregard as to truth or falsity."

No "reasonable jury" would reach that conclusion, the court wrote in its opinion. Robert DeLaney, Lewis' attorney, said he will ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the ruling.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)