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Lawyer sues TV station for defamation

A Portsmouth attorney is suing a Portsmouth television station claiming the station defamed him in a news report about his arrest on an assault charge this year.

Sterling H. Weaver Sr. is demanding $5 million from the owner of WAVY-TV for its reference to an earlier assault charge against Weaver.

Weaver was charged in February with sexual battery and assault on a law enforcement officer for a courtroom incident, Weaver said in his complaint.

While in jail on that charge, he said he heard a television news account of his arrest that reported on an earlier incident. The news report said that Weaver had been convicted of assault of a prosecutor in 2006 and sentenced to 30 days in jail, according to Weaver’s suit.

What that report failed to include, Weaver alleges, is that the 2006 assault charge was dismissed on appeal to circuit court. A bar complaint arising from the same 2006 incident also was dismissed, Weaver said.

The station’s report reflected a “clearly wanton and reckless disregard for the truth,” Weaver said.

Weaver filed suit in Portsmouth Circuit Court, but the TV station owner removed the case to federal court and filed an answer denying any defamation.

The broadcasts in question “were prepared in good faith, without actual malice and for the purpose of informing the public of a matter of general public interest of which the public had the right to be informed,” the company said in its answer.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, according to online court records.

In the February incident, Weaver entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor assault charge and received a six-month suspended sentence.

Weaver was reprimanded by the Virginia State Bar in 1997 after being accused of having sexual relations with a client. A later conviction for contempt of court – based on alleged failure to prepare for trial – was overturned by the Court of Appeals of Virginia in 2002.

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