SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – An attorney who seeks the Republican nomination for attorney general in today’s primary claims his opponent and a super PAC defamed him with $140,000 in ad buys that accused him of bragging “about recklessly committing road rage.”
Sean Reyes sued Nevada-based It’s Now or Never Inc. (the super PAC), his opponent John Swallow, and Swallow’s campaign committee, Friends of John Swallow.
Reyes claims that It’s Now or Never, or INON, a supposedly independent PAC, “has close ties to defendants Swallow, FOS and/or associates, team members, advisers, donors or other parties assisting or participating in the campaign for defendant Swallow.”
Reyes, who claims he “was selected as the National Outstanding Young Lawyer for the United States in 2008 by the American Bar Association,” filed his complaint of defamation, conspiracy and false light on Friday, four days before today’s primary.
In his complaint, Reyes claims that he and Swallow were locked in a “dead heat” in the polls in early June.
Then, he says, It’s Now or Never “spent approximately $140,000” on commercials, “that purported to represent an incident of ‘road rage’ and called into question Reyes’ qualification to serve as Utah attorney general.”
The “negative hit ads,” which began on June 14, alleged that he funneled $5,000 “under the table” to a political consultant, Comprehensive Solutions, and recounted a Salt Lake City Weekly cover story from 2008, “featuring candidate Reyes bragging about recklessly committing road rage,” according to the complaint.
One radio spot, Reyes claims, featured a man who “dramatically impersonates Reyes. ‘Get out!’ Sean Reyes screamed, ‘get out of there now!’ The occupants punched down the door locks. Their assailant was beside himself with rage. Sean Reyes snapped off their radio antenna, jumped on their hood and repeatedly whipped at their wind screen with a metal strip. The three teen-agers looked up at him with ashen faces. Before the light turned green, Sean Reyes jumped off the hood, flung the antenna at the car in disgust and stormed back to his car. Quote: ‘It’s not like I was got to kill anybody,’ Sean Reyes recalled.”
Reyes objects that “the commercial never indicates the alleged incident took place in 1993, when plaintiff was 22 years old.”
It’s Now or Never’s TV ads claimed: “‘For attorney general, Sean Reyes has shown he has had some major ethics issues.’ And ‘Sean Reyes, skirting the campaign laws, not the ethics we need for attorney general,'” according to the complaint.
Reyes claims the defendants tried to destroy his reputation through social media, including YouTube.
He claims that a web search for “Sean Reyes” and “road rage” leads to “a video showing a thuggish looking man in the alleyway smashing a car with crowbar or other object and jumping on top of the car with Sean Reyes’ voice in the background saying ‘I’m that fighter for Utah.”
Reyes acknowledges in the complaint that he got $5,000 from the Utah Freedom Defense PAC in 2010, but says that “reimbursement” was cleared by the lieutenant governor.
“These negative hit ads have damaged Reyes in a number of ways,” the complaint states.
“They have cast plaintiff Reyes in a false light, impugned his integrity, damaged his reputation among the voters and public at large, have resulted in increased support for his opponent, and misled voters into early voting for his opponent.”
He adds: “INON intentionally published the statements, knowing that they were taken out of context, false and/or otherwise misleading in reckless disregard for the truth, falsity or accuracy of such statements and the false light in which Reyes would be placed.
“INON was motivated to publish the statements out of ill will, spite, and actual malice.”
Reyes seeks punitive damages for defamation, false light and conspiracy, attorneys’ fees and costs.
He is represented by Joseph Pia with Pia Anderson Dorius Reynard & Moss.