Liberia: FrontPage Africa, Sen. Milton Teahjay to Go For Jury Trial
MONROVIA – Civil Law Court Judge, Kennedy Peabody says it would take a jury to determine libel as complained by Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay against FrontPageAfrica newspaper, therefore, the case would go for full trial.
The Senator sued FrontPageAfrica for action of wrong (libel) demanding up to US$4.7 million in damages. He alleged that the publication of his admission to brokering a bargain with presidential nominees that they would offer jobs to his supporters upon their confirmation caused him emotional distress, mental anguish, psychological pains and sufferings.
Judge Peabody on Friday mandated the lawyers representing both parties to present their pre-trial memorandum within 10 days to set the stage for trial.
The publication that led to the suit filed against FrontPageAfrica was based on a hint FrontPage Africa’s reporter assigned at the Senate, Henry Karmo, obtained from sources at the Capitol that Sen. Teahjay was removed from the committee he headed due to an allegation that he received money from Cllr. A. Ndubusi Nwabudike.
Though the Senate Pro-Tempore, when contacted, informed FrontPageAfrica that Sen. Teahjay’s removal as head of the Committee was a normal routine that happens after every three years, it was observed that Sen. Teahjay was the only Senator who had been removed from his position, though he had not elapsed the first three years.
When Contacted for clarification at the time, this is how the conversation between Sen. Teahjay and reporter Henry Karmo who has been made a respondent to the libel suit went:
Karmo: They say you took something from one of the nominees and that’s what led to your replacement.
Karmo: But I’ll not know chief, that’s why I said let me call my man and aks him.
Sen. Teahjay: That’s not true. No nominee in the entire Republic of Liberia would say I’ve should my five fingers for someone to put five dollars in my hand. Nobody. Even if the person wants to do it, they will be so disappointed.
Karmo, I have a kind of tradition in my office when I was chairman which I intend to continue and that tradition is when I confirm the people, I tell the truth: we are the ones who are giving you this job, if we don’t confirm you, you’ll not get it; I also have young people behind me who need to work, so by God’s grace if we succeed in confirming you got to help with one or two names. If that person is confirmed then I say please let Karmo for me, let him be your PR officer in your agency. That corruption pa I get it, I can’t lie. It’s through me, all you the young people, that’s how y’all survive. I don’t run public corporations, I don’t run company, I don’t run ministries. For those ministries, my lobby fee is we help them to help people. That corruption, every chair and every committee has it. For that one, I’m guilty, but to say Milton Teahjay stretched his hand and someone put five dollars in it, that’s not true.
If you know any particular person who said they gave me money, you must tell me, then the person, you and myself will sit down and we’ll talk about it, but I’ve not taken five dollars from anybody.
Karmo: Alright Sir, thank you.
Sen. Teahjay: Karmo you know you’re my man. People are always finding reason to try to taint somebody’s character. If I wanted money, Karmo, Nwabudike would have been confirmed.
Karmo: And that’s the name I heard, they say Nwabudike gave you ‘mah’ (money).
In fact, I’ll called him to my office, I’ll tell him that Mr. Nwabudike, I’m getting information that you gave money to this committee and we did not confirm you. He said, who did I give money to on that committee?
The publication which the Sinoe County Senator claims is libelous clearly indicated that Sen. Teahjay denied ever receiving money from Cllr. Nwabudike quoted him denying the allegation by saying “To say Milton Teahjay showed his hands and someone gave him five dollars, that’s not true. People always try to find way to be destroy people’s character. If I wanted money, Nwabudike would have been confirmed.”
The report also indicated that Sen. Teahjay denied that he was removed from the committee on allegations of bribery as his replacement was a normal routine of the Senate.
However, the Sinoe County Senator in his complaint to the court stated “Plaintiff says that Defendants are liable to Plaintiff in damages unless they can prove the truthfulness of the libelous publication or otherwise prove that they were not in reckless disregard for the facts when they published or caused to be published the respective stories deliberately laced with misinformation and falsehood.”
Throughout the 13 counts document filed before the Civil Law Court, Sen. Teahjay denied receiving bribe from Cllr. Nwabudike.
He alleged that FrontPageAfrica, its Editor-in-Chief, Rodney Sieh and Reporter Henry Karmo “interspersed their story with partial verbatim quotations and other inconsistent facts, truncated some paragraphs and deliberately inserted, instead, misinformation of their own to make their story look genuine.” This, he alleged, was intended to maliciously malign, defame and expose him to potential injury to his person, and even death and to also injure his reputation and political career in Liberia and elsewhere around the globe.
He prayed the court to grant US$1 million for general damages to include emotional pains and sufferings, emotional distress, psychological pains and sufferings.
He also wants US$1 million each for damages for allegedly exposing him to local and international anger, grave injury to his political interests and career, the risk of injury to his person or death, aggregating a total of US$3 million.
Also, he is claiming damages of US$250,000 each for punitive damages aggregating US$750,000 plus costs of court against FrontPageAfrica.