Candidate, election official set to square off in District Court

Published 11:38pm Thursday, October 4, 2012

Next Tuesday, voters will show up to the polls to settle three races in the city of Selma. At the same time, beginning at 9 a.m., one candidate and a leading election official will be in court, standing before District Judge Bob Armstrong.

Armstrong is scheduled to hear, and potentially reach a decision, in a probable cause case between Lola Sewell, a member of the Dallas County Board of Registrars and Tremayne “Toby” Gorden, a candidate for Selma City Council president.

“Someone was passing out flyers that were defamatory against me,” Sewell said. “And we are trying to sue them for defamation of character.”

Last week, flyers were handed out in the downtown area that read, “Be on the lookout for Lola Sewell, Wanda McQueen Tyler and Nadine Sturdivant. They will steal your vote — don’t let them do an absentee ballot for you — They are being paid for your vote. “

Sewell said she, and the other individuals listed in the flyer, are hoping for Armstrong to find probable cause for a libel case against Gorden, because they were informed Gorden was behind the printing and distribution of the flyers.

After Sewell approached an individual handing out the flyers, telling them they would possibly face defamation charges. The individual called Sewell that night and left a voicemail, informing Sewell that they were campaigning for Gorden.

“You said I was handing out flyers about you … you are gonna have to talk to Tremayne Gorden. That is who I am working for. I am campaigning for him … I was just doing my job,” the individual said. Sewell recorded the conversation, which the Times-Journal listened to.

“This is the first time a criminal case for libel has been brought in Dallas County that I can recall. Normally these cases are filed in civil court,” District Attorney Michael Jackson said. The case is not a lawsuit — no one is pressing charges and no one issued a warrant.

“That is why they call it probable cause,” Jackson said.

Jackson explained that under the statute 13A-11-160 for libel tending to provoke a breach of peace, two parties can go before a judge who will determine if there is probable cause for criminal libel and defamation of character.
If probable cause for libel were to be discovered, a warrant could then be issued and a criminal case would begin.

Gorden declined to make a comment when contacted by the Times-Journal.

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