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IN THE CHANCERY COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI

TYRONE L. LEWIS

v.

SHEILA LEWIS, TONY DAVIS KRISTIE NICHOLS and JOHN DOES 1-10

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PLAINTIFF

NO. G2015-927 T/1

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DEFENDANTS

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TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS HAD IN THIS CAUSE BEFORE THE

HONORABLE JAMES D. BELL, SENIOR STATUS JUDGE

IN THE FIFTH CHANCERY COURT DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI

ON THE 11TH DAY OF FEBRUARY 2019

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APPEARANCES:

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REPRESENTING THE PLAINTIFF:

DENNIS C. SWEET, III, ESQUIRE

DENNIS C. SWEET, IV, ESQUIRE

SWEET & ASSOCIATES

158 E. PASCAGOULA STREET

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI 39201

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REPRESENTING THE DEFENDANT TONY DAVIS:

RODNEY R. DIXON, ESQUIRE

3039 SUNCREST DRIVE JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI 39212

REPRESENTING THE DEFENDANTS KRISTIE NICHOLS AND TANGUE DAVIS:

WILLIAM C. BELL, ESQUIRE POST OFFICE BOX 1876 RIDGELAND, MISSISSIPPI 39158-1876

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(EXCERPT OF BENCH OPINION RENDERED BY THE COURT)

THE COURT: All right.

It is my duty to

make a ruling in this case and at least bring

this part of these proceedings to a close. I'm

going to dictate a decision.

This case, of course, began as a suit by

Tyrone Lewis against Sheila Lewis, Tangue Davis,

Tony Davis, Kristie Nichols, and John Does,

initially for a temporary restraining order on

certain publication of allegations that were

said to be untrue and also for permanent

injunction and damages.

After a hearing, the Court granted -- which

was unusual relief, granted a temporary

restraining order requiring that the Defendants

not continue to assert that Tyrone Lewis is the

father of Kristie Nichols and that Sheila Lewis

successfully divorced Tyrone Lewis, which were

comments being publicly made at the time. Of

course, that does not prevent them from

asserting that in the courtroom and putting on

proof of those things, if that's the way the

proof came out.

But the evidence received was that an

allegation had been made years ago that Tyrone

Lewis was the father of Kristie Nichols. The

evidence was also received that a blood test was

done in that case, I believe in 1991, by Scales

Laboratories, and it was determined conclusively

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that Tyrone Lewis is not the father of Kristie

Nichols and that there was attached to the

result was a picture of Tyrone Lewis at Scales

Lab having his blood drawn, which was the common

procedure at the time to verify the identity of

the person taking the test.

A complaint has been made regularly that

Mr. Lewis did not go to the laboratory at the

same time as Ms. Davis or Kristie Nichols.

And

it is not uncommon for the purported father and

purported mother to not be present at the same

time in order to reduce the potential of

conflict between them; and, so, the laboratory

takes a picture of the persons that they are

drawing the sample from as proof that that is

the person from whom the sample was taken.

So

the Court entered an order in 1991, I believe,

determining conclusively that Mr. Lewis is not

the father of Kristie Nichols.

The issue came to court a second time some

years later when Department of Human Services

sought to obtain child support from Mr. Lewis on

an allegation that he was the father of Kristie

Nichols. The Court in that case dismissed the

lawsuit because of the first lawsuit, the first

determination. So this Court has already said

in earlier hearings that this Court is bound by

the finality of judgment from which no appeals

were taken.

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An interesting motion was made to reopen

that issue and maybe even force another blood

test.

That issue came up late in these

proceedings after the case had already come up

for trial on one occasion and been continued for

one reason or another, and the issue came up

again on an allegation that somebody else

stepped forward and took the test for Mr. Lewis

and that there was a purported recording from

that person stating that, that he had been paid

to take the test for Mr. Lewis.

So the Court

let it be known that it would hear from that

witness and then determine whether any further

action should be taken.

However, that witness was never produced,

never came to testify, and this case has been

ongoing for a long time.

The Court is not going

to -- and the Court has already said it's not

going to reopen or consider reopening matters

conclusively determined by the Court years gone

by, based on hearsay statements that are not

subject to cross-examination, not subject to

testing, where the memory of the person can't be

tested, nothing about that could be tested.

Therefore, the Court did not require yet another

test to prove or disprove an issue already

conclusively determined.

The other issue that the Court already

ruled on was that there should not be further

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assertions that Sheila Lewis successfully

divorced Tyrone Lewis. It was conclusively

shown -- it was shown that the Court concluded

in their divorce that Sheila Lewis was at fault

and Tyrone Lewis was granted a divorce.

All right. That doesn't stop the Court's

inquiry or the necessity of proof on the issue

of whether there should be a permanent

injunction, whether there was, in fact,

actionable defamation when we take into

consideration the First Amendment, Fourteenth

Amendment issue, Freedom of Press,

New York

Times v. Sullivan,

and its progeny, that the

Court has to consider.

The Court has been and

recognizes that there ought to be uninhibited,

robust, and wide-open debate involving public

officials; and, ordinarily, only deliberate

distortions, facts made with malicious intent

can be the basis of a lawsuit and not some minor

errors.

An issue raised today about whether a

procedure was followed concerning an opportunity

to retract, the authority was not provided to

the Court concerning that. The Court deems that

issue to be waived since it was not raised at

any time until now, but the Court does note that

there were many -- that there's been opportunity

to retract for four years.

And I do accept the

statement by Mr. Davis that the Court directed

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that he not continue to blog on certain issues,

but the Court certainly would have considered

any request for appropriate retraction.

The gravamen of the complaint is contained

in Exhibit 12, and I'm going to go through some

of those because I need to address whether there

has been actionable defamation.

In Exhibit 12, I read:

"Tyrone Lewis is

having a live radio broadcast and is paying

people to say how good Tyrone Lewis is and

Tyrone Lewis paid off preachers and endorsers to

spread the lie of how good Tyrone Lewis is for

pedophiles. Oh, I mean Sheriff!"

That appears on what's been shown to be the

Tony Davis blog, a statement issued by Tony

Davis, according to the blog, on August 3rd, and

that would have been 2015.

So one of the issues -- before I

continue -- would be whether or not Tony Davis

as a blogger is entitled to the same level of

protection as the

New York Times or other

standard recognized journalistic institutes or

whether he's just another individual posting his

opinions on line.

Mr. Davis is entitled to the

protection of the First Amendment, Freedom of

Speech and Freedom of Press, as is any

individual, but not all speech is treated the

same and not all speech is protected.

And in examining Exhibit 12 and listening

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to the testimony of Mr. Davis, I don't find that

Mr. Davis uses any of the ordinary methods used

by journalists to vet or qualify the information

that's posted, and he didn't take the precaution

of stating, Sheila Lewis says or Sheila Lewis

alleges or it is asserted by.

He just made his

own statements of fact. In any event, the claim

of paying off preachers and endorsers and

claiming that Mr. Lewis is a pedophile is

slander, per se, or defamation, per se.

case, libel, per se.

In this

He repeats allegations by Sheila Lewis that

Sheila Lewis abused her son and that she was

granted a divorce from Mr. Lewis.

If he had

checked the record, he would have seen that

Mr. Lewis was granted the divorce and that

Sheila Lewis was found to be abusive.

He did

not check the record, and he reposted her

comments at his peril.

There's a post that says:

"The next

picture was just to much excitement for Tyrone

Lewis there he is showing his fancy telephone to

these 2 young boys but as usual Tyrone Lewis is

ignoring the little girls! I guess they were

the wrong gender!"

And then: "People please be very careful

allowing Tyrone Lewis free contact with your

small children!" Making allegations and

implications that it's dangerous to have your

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children around Mr. Lewis is just defamatory,

per se. He's speaking about Sheila Lewis' son,

Tyrone Lewis' stepson.

"This woman went through hell and back and

her son, Tyrone Lewis step son was violated in a

most sickening way and he thought he got away

with this but Sheila Lewis was strengthen

through pray and she is telling the truth about

what was done to her and her son.

Sheila Lewis

and her son are waiting on taking a polygraph

test, just like I will and all others that have

made statement! Why won't Tyrone Lewis stand up

like a man and take the Polygraph Test and the

Paternity Test? Tyrone Lewis is sick people and

he doesn't need to be sheriff he needs to be a

inmate in a jail or a mental institution!"

In today's world, the Internet has exploded

with people will post just anything, make any

allegations, and that doesn't make it right or

protected speech just because you post any

allegation. If someone says a defamatory lie

and you repeat their defamatory lie and publish

it, that's defamation. On the other hand, if

you attribute that to them, you might avoid the

claim of defamation. Most of this time it's not

attributed, you make it as your own statement.

You repost Ms. Sheila Lewis saying:

"Everything I say & everything Tony says is in

our divorce decree. The TOTAL TOPIC IS LETTING

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THE PUBLIC KNOW EVERYTHING MY SON & myself

experience."

Well, there was some potential

verification. That's a repost where she's

claiming that everything that she said and their

son Tony said is in the divorce decree, and

you've reposted that making it your statement.

And had you looked at the divorce decree, you

would see that nothing that she is saying is in

that divorce decree, yet it's posted here that

it's all in the divorce decree.

defamatory.

That is

"If you are a woman, if you are a mother,

if you have a child I you child was being abused

or your daughter was being beat what would you

do?

Tell me can you imagine the fear that these

people had lived through!!! Help me, Please get

this out to everyone that you can because I am

so scared that Tyrone Lewis will continue his

evil and harm more women and children. Please

help me I can't do this all by myself!!!!!

Please share!!!!"

The testimony we've received today and

December 7 is that Mr. Lewis did not threaten or

intimidate anybody. There was a phone call

years ago before he was sheriff, and I don't

recall whether Ms. Nichols called him or he

called Ms. Nichols, but there was a telephone

conversation in which he told Ms. Nichols not to

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contact him or his family.

If she did, if she

tried to come around, he would have her

arrested.

That is not a threat or an

intimidation. It's simply any person's right to

say, stay away from me or my family.

That's not

a threat. But in this blog it's been repeatedly

alleged that there were threats and

intimidation, multiple threats and intimidation

to multiple people, and that just wasn't true.

That's defamatory, an allegation of abuse of

power by the sheriff.

"Tyrone Lewis take a paternity test and

prove to all of us that you are not the father!

You were suppose to take one several years back

but you didn't show up!

Why?"

Well, the public record was that he showed

up, that he took the test, and it was determined

that he was not the father. That's a defamatory

statement, untrue, defamatory. I haven't gone

to the question yet about whether it's

actionable under all the circumstances.

"Tyrone Lewis do you realize how painful it

is for a child to hear her father tell her not

to call him or he would put her in jail."

That

was established, that Kristie Nichols who

believed that he was the father had that

conversation. "And that she was to black to be

your daughter?" The testimony was that Tyrone

Lewis didn't say that to her, but the allegation

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is being made here that Tyrone Lewis made that

statement to Ms. Nichols.

"Tyrone Lewis what color do you think you

are?

Tyrone Lewis is this why you now think

that you are better than being black? Below is

who Tyrone Lewis think he is now!!! Remember

this!!! Tyrone Lewis like anyone else your

color was decided by God and not man and God

does not make mistakes!!!!" That's a truthful

statement. "I would suggest that you quit

trying to play the race game on our white

voters! Tyrone Lewis you are now trying to use

other races so you can get votes", and so forth.

It is a shame, but it's just true, that in

Mississippi, and in life, race matters. It

shouldn't. God only made one race, the human

race, and we people make distinctions that God

doesn't make. So whether this comment had any

impact or not, I don't know, but at least part

of it was untrue.

All right.

Come to this next one.

Mr. Dixon asserts that the true test of malice

is not whether somebody in a defamation case,

First Amendment defamation case, is not whether

somebody was angry or had hatred but whether

they knew that a statement was untrue when it

was posted, and that Mr. Davis was relying upon

others who made statements and he had the right

to believe those statements. That's basically

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the oversimplification of at least some of the

defense. And he pointed out that there would

have to be evidence that lies were conjured up

or made up, but what I have received would be

evidence that Mr. Davis did have ill feeling

towards Mr. Tyrone Lewis that goes back years.

And what I'm reading in the blog shows a

great deal of acrimony by Mr. Davis towards

Mr. Lewis. And the testimony I received earlier

from Tangue Davis and Kristie Nichols confirms

that Mr. Tony Davis was looking for whatever

dirt he could get to post. During his testimony

he even alleged without any basis, apparently,

or proof or otherwise that even Mr. Lewis'

mother was a criminal and had some significant

criminal history, and that appeared to be just a

statement to try to harm Mr. Lewis with no

basis.

Concerning the issue of conjured up and

made up, the testimony was that Mr. Tony Davis

suggested or told Tangue Davis and Kristie

Nichols that they should go to the FBI and other

places.

And they did.

And they walked in the

door and they got a visitor pass and sent to him

a copy of the visitor pass which he posted and

says:

"Well Tyrone Lewis looks like the FBI is

now getting involved in investigating you for

Statutory Rape when Kristie mother was only 14

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year old." That is the definition of conjured

up and made up.

That is proof of conspiracy.

The FBI doesn't get involved in statutory rape

and didn't follow up. Kristie Nichols and

Tangue Davis said that they did not investigate

the case.

They sent her on to state

authorities.

"Now Tyrone Lewis does this looks like

Kristie mother is just making something up on

you?

Now the FBI has the video of a man saying

you paid him some money to him to take a

Paternity Test for you?" That's another untrue

statement.

The FBI had no video.

There was no

video. There is a recording, which I've not

listened to because it's hearsay and it's not

been properly authenticated, not in evidence,

not subject to cross-examination; but there is

an audio that it is purported says that, and

Mr. Davis says he simply erred.

"You know I guess when people pass a

polygraph test more than once then Tyrone Lewis

do you think Law enforcement agencies might

believe that the person is telling the truth?"

Now that's an assertion, implication that there

had been polygraph tests taken more than once

when that's just not true.

Now he may say,

well, I said looks like the FBI is now getting

involved, and I guess when people pass a

polygraph test, this communication when taken in

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the context of all the communication in

Exhibit 12, if I just take it in the best light

towards Tony Davis, it was an effort to cast

Tyrone Lewis in a false light, that there was an

FBI investigation, and a false light that people

had passed polygraph tests about him against

him.

So that exhibit is an intent to either

create a false light or just outright lie.

Well, creating a false light is an outright lie.

"Take the Paternity Test Tyrone Lewis!!!!!

If Tyrone Lewis don't take the Paternity Test

then don't support or vote for him until he

does!!!!!! please share!!!!!" Well, he had

already taken the test. He had already passed.

It goes on to say:

"These women lived through

years of threats and fear for their lives and

the lives of their family member and children

Why?"

The testimony has been that there were no

threats other than that telephone conversation,

which is not a legal threat.

"The answer is

very simple Tyrone Lewis use his position as a

law enforcement officer to intimidate these

women and then he was wearing a gun and had

position of authority."

"And then he was wearing a gun", implying,

in a false light, that he was wearing a gun when

he threatened or intimidated. "And had position

of authority that he could manipulate officers

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under his command and implied that he could do

something to them if they told about the nasty

things he has done to them and his step-son!"

Yet there was no proof that he ever made any of

those alleged threats.

All of us believe in the First Amendment

and free and open debate, freedom of speech,

freedom of press, and we want to protect those

things, those rights. In order to have free and

open debate, sometimes people will be wrong.

Sometimes wrong information will be published.

Where there is evidence, not just wrong

information but lies are conjured up and made up

and that people work together in order to

conjure up and make up lies, that's a definition

of a conspiracy.

So I do find that the Plaintiff has met its

burden of proof of proving to me beyond a

reasonable doubt, as I would call the high

burden, to any time impose any limitation on

speech or press, I think it ought to be a high

burden. But I find beyond a reasonable doubt

that repeated false statements were made and

that there was malicious intent, and I find that

there was damage.

Now it's been asserted that the proof on

damages is light, that there was not evidence

from experts or statements from Quinnipiac or

other polls or institutions that might try to

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measure the impact these statements had on an

election. There has been evidence that it had

impact on the election. I believe the Plaintiff

cannot be faulted for not spending many tens of

thousands of dollars in getting tests done and

getting expert testimony on cases in order to

support a case where the probability of

collection may be remote.

The proof is that in excess of $120,000 was

spent on this election and that before the

election that Mr. Lewis had a 56 percent

favorable rating and that he lost, and there was

evidence that these false statements that were

spread about him impacted a number of voters.

It was pointed out that the sheriff had

lots of other issues, ongoing public issues,

other investigations, other lawsuits, problems

in the jail, problems in the courthouse,

problems around the county; and that would be

true for every sheriff in every county and for

every elected official, especially a sheriff in

a law enforcement issue because there always

will be issues and there always will be dispute

as to whether or not the issues -- the way a

sheriff handled the issues was the appropriate

way. There will always be differing opinions.

But it is a fact that there were other issues

that would and could affect some voters.

I find that the Plaintiff has met its

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burden of proof of showing that he suffered

injury and damage to his reputation as a result

of these false allegations, at least one of them

conjured up; that is, the FBI investigation. I

find that an appropriate damage is $50,000, all

things considered, in actual damages and

Mr. Tyrone Lewis will be awarded a judgment of

actual damages in the amount of $50,000 against

Sheila Lewis, Tangue Davis, Tony Davis, and

Kristie Nichols.

In addition, I find that the egregious

nature of the actions of Mr. Davis are such that

punitive damages are warranted. I do not have

information about what his net worth is,

therefore, I will award what I believe in this

circumstance to be a nominal amount of punitive

damages but an amount that will at least,

hopefully, have some impact on persons who --

deterrents on persons who would have similar

conduct, which is a consideration, and I am

awarding punitive damages of one-tenth of the

actual damages in the amount of $5,000 against

Mr. Tony Davis only. I'm taking into

consideration that I do not have evidence of

what his net worth is, otherwise I would award a

much larger punitive damage award, but I'm also

taking into consideration the need to deter like

bad behavior in making that award.

Mr. Sweet, would you prepare a judgment?

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MR. SWEET: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: We are adjourned.

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(HEARING ADJOURNED)

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CERTIFICATE OF COURT REPORTER

STATE OF MISSISSIPPI COUNTY OF HINDS:

I, Colleen O. White, Official Court Reporter for

the Fifth Chancery Court District of Mississippi, hereby

certify that I took by means of Stenograph machine the

proceedings had in Cause Number G2015-927 T/1 on the

Docket of the Chancery Court of the First Judicial

District of Hinds County, Mississippi.

I

further certify that I have transcribed my notes

to the best of my skill and ability, and that the

foregoing pages contain a full, true and correct

transcript of said notes.

I

further certify that my Certificate annexed

hereto applies only to the original and certified copies

of this transcript. The undersigned assumes no

responsibility for the accuracy of any reproduced copies

not made under my direction or control.

This, the 11th day of February, 2019.

/s/ Colleen O. White

COLLEEN O. WHITE, RMR CSR Number 1310

Case: 25CH1:15-cv-000927

Document #: 21

Filed: 08/25/2015

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Case: 25CH1:15-cv-000927

Document #: 21

Filed: 08/25/2015

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Case: 25CH1:15-cv-000927

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Case: 25CH1:15-cv-000927

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Filed: 06/23/2015

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Case: 25CH1:15-cv-000927

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Filed: 06/23/2015

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