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$1.5 Million Award Against Newspaper for Defaming Indiana Police Officer

An Indiana jury has ordered The Tribune Star in Terre Haute, Indiana, to pay $1.5 million to a police officer who claimed the newspaper defamed him by stories it published. The jury’s verdict on July 28, 2004, awarded Clay County Sheriff’s deputy Jeff Maynard $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit claimed two stories defamed Maynard. The first said a Clay County woman had claimed misconduct by Maynard during a traffic stop. The second stated that the Clay County sheriff had asked the Indiana State Police to investigate her claims. There was no mention in that lawsuit that the newspaper had also published a follow-up story that cleared Maynard and reported the woman was later charged with false reporting, which was later dropped during a plea agreement.

The Tribune Star was disappointed by the verdict. “We have always felt, and still do, that the way we reported the story was truthful, accurate, and fair,” said publisher Jeremiah Turner. “At this point, we are considering all the options available to us, including an appeal.” Source: Associate Press.

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