Officers sue trustee, township for slander, defamation

Three township police officers are suing Trustee President George Lang and the township for defamation, slander and other allegations.

The officers say Lang publicly told lies about them regarding a May 6, 2012, incident at a local bar in which they were accused of using excessive force against 29-year-old Jeremy M. Lewis of Blanchester.

The lawsuit was filed by Gary Gabbard, Randall Farris and Paul Brent Lovell, who were cleared of any wrongdoing after an internal investigation of the incident, which occurred at Win, Place or Show Sports Bar & Grill on U.S. 42.

Police, responding to a large fight involving 15 people, including one who reportedly had a weapon, sprayed pepper-spray into Lewis’ face and struck him with batons.

Lewis sued the township and settled out of court for $265,000 in 2012 after a grand jury declined to indict him on charges of resisting arrest, obstructing official business and assaulting police officers.

The suit brought against Lang and the township alleges defamation, slander, tortious interference with a business relationship, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.

It claims Lang slandered the officers on or shortly after Feb. 21, 2013, when he told people at a West Chester Tea Party meeting that police were “bragging about the beating back at the patrol room,” that the victim was “taken to the hospital” and that the officers’ actions caused severe damages, including that Lewis’ face was “very puffy and bloody.”

A 25-minute video featuring Lang’s remarks was posted on YouTube.

The suit also alleges Lang published “false and defamatory” statements with malice that there were at least “three uniformed police officers” who complained to him about the officers bragging about the incident. It also alleges Lang made subsequent statements to third parties thereafter to the same extent.

Lang said he’s been advised by his attorney not to discuss the matter, due to pending litigation.

However, he did say he would be absolved from the charges leveled at him.

“You can count on the fact that I will fight with a high degree of passion what I believe to be are these false allegations and I am confident that I will be vindicated in the long run,” Lang said.

The suit maintains all those statements caused the officers to suffer lost promotions, “financial and economic damages which shall continue into the future,” and emotional and psychological damages.

The lawsuit asks for a jury to award judgment in an amount in excess of $25,000 for each of the officers, plus interest, punitive damages and attorney fees.

The township has not yet filed a response to the suit.

Township spokeswoman Barb Wilson declined to comment, saying the township does not discuss pending litigation.