2017-10-11 / Front Page

Wagester sues over Facebook Claims Deckerville man defamed him

BY ERIC LEVINE
810-452-2689 • elevine@mihomepaper.com


James Wagester James Wagester James Wagester has filed a second defamation lawsuit connected to his unsuccessful bid for Sanilac County Sheriff in 2016.

Wagester filed the lawsuit against Bretton Jones, of Deckerville, in Sanilac County Circuit Court Sept. 21.

In the complaint, Wagester, who lost to incumbent Sheriff Garry Biniecki in the November General Election, alleges Jones created a Facebook page entitled “Jim Wagester for Sheriff,” that resulted in “slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false light, and appropriation (Wagester’s name or likeness).”

The lawsuit claims Wagester “did not know about it (Facebook page) or agree to it in any way. Beginning in October of 2016, Defendant used Plaintiff’s name and likeness benefiting Plaintiff’s opponent and made false and misleading statements about Plaintiff…”

The Facebook postings included lewd and profane language attributed to Wagester about women and children.

The four-count civil suit alleges Jones defamed Wagester by publishing “remarks to third parties with knowledge of the falsity of the statements or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity.”

Wagester, through his attorney Julie A. Gafkay of Frankenmuth, has demanded a jury trial for damages in excess of $25,000.

"This frivolous lawsuit should not even be allowed to waste Sanilac County's resources,” Jones said in an email to the News regarding the lawsuit.

“We can't be afraid to speak our minds about those who would govern us."

This is Wagester’s second defamation lawsuit stemming from his campaign for sheriff.

Last fall Wagester sued Biniecki for alleged slanderous remarks the sheriff made about him to several individuals. Biniecki has denied the allegations.

Wagester, a former Sanilac County Sheriff’s deputy, filed the lawsuit in September 2016 during the final weeks of his campaign to unseat the sheriff.

Biniecki won re-election by an overwhelming number of votes.

Biniecki and the attorney representing the county in the lawsuit met with commissioners behind closed doors during last week’s meeting of the county board.

After the board returned to open session, commissioners passed a motion directing the attorney to “follow the directive of the board.”

The motion comes ahead of a case evaluation scheduled Oct. 19 in Huron County Circuit Court. The trial is set for Feb. 27.

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