Turner calls lawsuit “frivolous,” “desperate”

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2005

House District 72 candidate Albert Turner, Jr., says a lawsuit filed against him in Perry County April 21 is a last-ditch political tactic on the part of his opponent, Ralph A. Howard.

The civil suit has been filed by long-time Turner opponent Vinnie Royster of Marion. It seeks damages resulting from the April 22, 2003 scuffle between the two for which Turner was later found guilty of Harassment on March 31.

“The voters of District 72 can see now what Ralph Howard stoops to,” Turner said. “She works for Howard. This was done by Ralph Howard in a desperate attempt to sway voters with negative politics.

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“If this is all he has to offer the public,” Turner said, “we’ll see what they have to tell him about that on Tuesday.”

With the special election between Turner and Howard now only three days away, Turner was blunt when asked if the suit would have any effect on the election’s results.

“No,” he said.

Howard confirmed that Royster was a member of his campaign team, but denied having any prior knowledge of Royster’s lawsuit.

“None whatsoever,” he said when asked if he and Royster had had any discussion on the matter. “This is the first I’ve heard of it. That’s something between them that transpired way before this election even started.”

Howard said that the suit was a matter for Royster and Turner to resolve, and was neither involved with his campaign nor has any bearing on it.

“I think it’s within her rights,” he said. “But there are several bigger issues in this campaign I have to worry about. This is not a problem that involves my campaign. That is his problem.

“I don’t think we are in a desperate situation and we don’t need desperate actions,” he added. “I wish him well.”

Turner said that the motivation for the suit also sprung from Royster’s long-held grudge towards Turner for her defeat in a race between the two for the Perry County Commission several years ago.

“At this time I would like to let the people know that this is a lady with a 6th-grade education, who has no job, who got beat in the race for County Commission by more than a thousand votes, and has continued to harass me with frivolous lawsuits,” Turner said. “She has yet to prevail in any of these lawsuits and she will not prevail in this one. She is a politically disgruntled woman who was slaughtered in the election…I’m about tired of it.”

In an interview Friday, Royster said her suit has nothing to do with either her defeat or the current District 72 election, but is only to right the wrong committed against her back on April 22, 2003.

“This is not politically motivated,” she said. “I just want justice for what Albert Turner did to me.”

Royster testified at Turner’s harassment trial that he had choked her and kneed her in the stomach during a confrontation at the Perry County commissioner’s Annex, and although several county Commissioners offered differing testimony, he was found guilty. Royster says the struggle is still causing her physical problems.

“Right now I am suffering. I am still under medical care from those injuries,” she said. “It should have been an assault charge.”

In addition to the medical damages, the suit includes one count for slander, deriving from a radio broadcast made by Turner on April 20, 2003, in which he criticized opponents of a proposed landfill that had spoken out a public hearing on the matter.

A taped copy of the broadcast was made available to the Times, on which Turner includes amongst the opponents “one or two hanky-headed niggers, or should I say Negroes.” Royster claims the remark is directed at her.

Turner, however, notes that he does not mention Royster by name, and says the suit is therefore without merit.

Royster reiterated that her filing suit was not intended as a political weapon, and that her sole motivations are damages, and the chance to speak out against Turner’s actions.

“I’m standing up for every woman, black or white or whatever color. We have a right to disagree without being beaten,” she said. “We are saying, It is not right to put your hand on me.”

Royster is represented in the suit by William P. Powers III, of Columbiana. He was not in his office Friday and was unavailable for comment. The suit seeks $500,000 in medical damages and $100,000 in restitution for slander.

As of Friday, Turner had not been served with the suit, as it had not been transferred to the Perry County Sheriff’s office for serving until Friday morning.

The information from the civil suit represents only one side of the case an does not reflect a rebuttal from Turner or his attorney.