Local radio talk show host sued for libel
James Faller II, of Columbia County, has filed a lawsuit in Gwinnett County Superior Court alleging that radio talk show host Austin Rhodes repeatedly defamed and defamed him on air and on Rhodes social media pages.
The lawsuit, filed on December 17, also names Beasley Broadcasting, the parent company of local broadcasting station WGAC (AM580 and 95.1FM), which airs the Rhodes show.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Rhodes “made false, malicious and defamatory statements against Faller expressed in printouts, phone calls, online electronic forms and broadcasts.”
The lawsuit accuses Rhodes of calling Faller a “bizarre”, “idiot”, “fraud” and “criminal”.
Further, the complaint alleges that Rhodes telephoned prominent politicians and elected officials warning them to partner with Faller and pose for photos with him at public events.
Faller is known to frequent Republican Party events in Columbia County.
Faller admitted in a phone interview that he was a convicted felon and had spent more than two years in federal prison. However, Faller insists he was a whistleblower and that the money laundering convictions and IRS-related charges stemmed from a government conspiracy against him.
Faller said that in a decade-long battle, the government organized the murder of two of his children and the rape of a third. He said his convictions are currently under appeal and other indictments against him have been dropped.
According to Faller, if the appeals fail, he expects to be pardoned.
Faller produced a 10 minute recorded conversation between himself and Rhodes where the host of a radio show told him, âYou have to put about 10 years of constructive and error-free living between yourself and your prison sentence. You have to keep your nose out of politics.
According to Faller’s complaint, Rhodes’ warning and refusal to allow Faller to be a guest on his afternoon radio show violated Faller’s right to free speech.
Defamation is defined by law when a person knowingly publishes a false statement that damages reputation or harms an identifiable person. Falsely accusing a private citizen of being a convicted felon without taking the time to verify the charge would likely meet the criteria for defamation. The standards are different for public figures or public officials.
In terms of a First Amendment violation, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 1974 case, Miami Herald v. Tornillo, that individuals did not have the right to access the media.
Rhodes maintains that he never knew or met Faller until he was told that Faller was attempting to get involved in political campaigns without revealing his criminal past.
According to Rhodes, he was alarmed that Faller was approaching politicians and posing in photos with them despite knowing nothing of Faller’s criminal record. Rhodes admits he made several phone calls warning people to be wary of Faller.
âYou can’t slander someone with the truth, and that’s all I did. I told the truth, âRhodes said.
This is not the first time that Rhodes has been embroiled in a defamation controversy. Businessman and politician Joe Mullins sued Rhodes for defamation in 2018 and then claimed that an “agreement” had been made, but disclosed few details claiming he had signed a confidentiality agreement.
âWe closed it. He’s not allowed to talk to me anymore, âMullins said.
However, Rhodes said his company never reached a deal with Mullins and the lawsuit was withdrawn before the trial.
“My boss never told me not to talk to him [Mullins] on air, and I know for a fact that our company has never settled a lawsuit or paid any money for something that I said on air, âsaid Rhodes.
In 2006, Rhodes joined Ronald Strength, then Richmond County Sheriff, in suing Bryan Doyle, an Aiken-based radio personality, for comments and accusations he aired as ” Ryan B “.
The court ruled in favor of Rhodes and Strength and awarded them millions of dollars in damages.
Rhodes said he was happy with the outcome of the case, but neither he nor the former sheriff ever received a dime from the judgment.
âI’m a multimillionaire on paper,â Rhodes said.
Scott hudson is the main rapporteur for The Augusta press. Reach it at [email protected]