(CN) – An FBI agent was not defamed by the description of an undercover investigation in the 2009 book “Kings of Tort,” the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled.
The book details the investigation and prosecution of attorney Richard Scruggs and others on judicial corruption charges. At the time of the book’s events, Tom Dawson, its co-author, was the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Missouri.
In the book Dawson recounts how he, assistant John Hailman and supervisor Jim Greenlee launched the undercover investigation of Scruggs attempted bribery of a local judge. According to Dawson, the three had “lost confidence” in Philip Halbert Neilson, who oversaw FBI agents in the district, and had to broach the subject with the new Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the state.
“They had to gain the confidence of a brand-new SAC, whom they had never met, by convincing him that his supervisor in north Mississippi could not be trusted and that a new case agent and supervisor should be assigned to this investigation,” the book stated.
Neilson filed a defamation lawsuit against Dawson, co-author Alan Lange and Pediment Publishing. The trial ruled in the defendants’ favor. Neilson then took the case to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which also ruled for the defendants in an opinion written by Chief Justice L. Joseph Lee.
“Dawson supported his motion for summary judgment with affidavits from himself, Greenlee and Hailman. In these separate affidavits, each man states the reason he thought Neilson was untrustworthy. These affidavits go into detail about Neilson’s past conduct and how that conduct resulted in Dawson, Greenlee and Hailman’s lack of confidence in Neilson,” Lee wrote.
Scruggs, who was involved in the big-money tobacco litigation in the 1990s, was released from prison earlier this year after serving time for judicial corruption charges, according to GulfLive.com.
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