West Chester Twp. trustee settles slander lawsuit

The lawsuit three police officers filed against West Chester Twp. Trustee George Lang, accusing him of defamation and slander, has been settled for $18,000.

The case stemmed from comments Lang made at a Butler County Tea Party meeting in February 2013, where he claimed police officers Gary Gabbard, Randall Farris and Paul Lovell Jr. used excessive force while breaking up a bar fight at Win, Place or Show Sports Bar & Grill on U.S. 42 in May of 2012.

Under the settlement, each officer will get $6,000. The township incurred $79,141 in legal fees to defend itself and Lang over two years. The township’s insurance carrier will cover the costs, minus the $2,500 deductible.

Lang said he didn’t want to settle, he wanted to take it to trial, where he is confident he would have prevailed.

“I did what was in the best interest of the taxpayers of West Chester Twp.,” he said. “They (the officers) came down from asking hundreds of thousands, almost $300,000 in total, to $6,000 a person … the cost of the settlement was significantly less than what the cost of litigation would have been.”

Lang told attendees at the 2013 meeting that he thought the police officers did not handle the arrest of then 29-year-old Jeremy Lewis properly. He said they cost the township $280,000 after Lewis filed a lawsuit when the grand jury refused to indict him for resisting arrest, obstructing official business and assaulting police officers, among other things.

A 25-minute video with Lang’s remarks were posted on You Tube.

Visiting Judge Guy Guckenberger compared the allegations made by the officers with what Lang said on the video. The judge determined not everything Lang said was slanderous, but that some of it crossed the line.

“The court is of the opinion reasonable minds would conclude that there are genuine issues of material fact that Lang acted in a reckless manner …,” the judge wrote in an order denying Lang’s request to end the case.

Lang appealed to the 12th District Court of Appeals and the case was settled during that process.

Lang said while he believes the township has the best police force there is, his opinion about what happened that night at the bar has not changed.

“I stand by my original comments that I made,” he said. “In my opinion, that night at Win, Place or Show our cops got it wrong.”

The attorney for the three police officers could not be reached for comment.

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