FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky jury has ruled a former Democratic state senator knowingly aired a false TV ad in 2014 and has ordered him to pay his Republican opponent $200,000 in damages.
R.J. Palmer, the former Democratic minority leader in the Kentucky Senate, lost to Republican Ralph Alvarado in 2014. A week before the election, Palmer paid for a TV ad using courtroom footage to imply Alvarado, a medical doctor, was "getting rich off addiction" by unlawfully prescribing $3,000 worth of oxycodone to a criminal defendant. Alvarado said the footage was altered, adding the defendant had a valid prescription.
Alvarado sued Palmer and his political consultant, Dale Emmons, for defamation. The case dragged on for two years. Emmons settled the case in March and sent Alvarado a written apology. Palmer opted for a trial, and on Wednesday the jury unanimously ruled against him.
Alvarado called the verdict a "vindication."
"I think there are other politicians who have been subject to this kind of attack during campaigns in the past, I've just been determined enough to spend the money to see it through to get a jury verdict on something like this," Alvarado said. "I hope that it sends the message to people considering running in the future to consider the kind of words and ads they run on others."
Palmer's attorney John Hendricks said he and his co-counsel had just received the verdict Wednesday afternoon and they are reviewing their options.
Alvarado's attorney Christopher Hunt said the jury awarded $125,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages. The verdict also found Palmer acted with malice, a required finding for defamation under Kentucky law because Alvarado is a public figure.