ATLANTA (CN) - An attorney who stars in "Real Housewives of Atlanta" claims in court that an Internet publishing company defamed her in articles that accused her of "being a crooked attorney who knows how to commit crimes, has committed crimes, and knows how to cover up her criminal activity."
Phaedra Parks sued Vibe Holdings in Federal Court. "Among its corporate activities, defendant owns, operates, and controls Vibe.com, Uptown Magazine, and Augustus Publishing," the complaint states. Parks claims that Vibe.com "had actual knowledge that the accusations against plaintiff were false prior to publication."
Parks says she has practiced law for 13 years, produced TV shows as well as starring on one, and is known for her philanthropy, serving on the boards of the Junior League of Atlanta and the Atlanta Children's Shelter, past president of her local Bar Association, and work with other professional groups.
In 2000, Parks says, she represented Atlanta rapper Drama for a probation violation.
Drama introduced Parks to his-then girlfriend, Angela Stanton, and Parks represented her at a sentence-modification hearing, but "plaintiff has never had any formal or informal employment relationship with Stanton," the complaint states.
It continues: "Plaintiff has never participated in any criminal activities with Stanton.
"Plaintiff did not socialize with Stanton on any regular basis and does not consider (and never has considered) her to be a close friend or confidant.
"Stanton is a convicted felon and has served multiple terms in prison.
"Around February of 2010, Stanton began a personal crusade of false attacks against plaintiff.
"Specifically, Stanton began posting false and defamatory accusations about plaintiff on Twitter and otherwise made false and defamatory statements about her to third persons in the community.
"In March of this year, defendant published and promoted Stanton's false and defamatory accusations on the Internet, and as a direct result, Stanton's personal and unfounded vendetta against plaintiff went viral on the Internet.
"Defendant interviewed Stanton and broadcast her false and defamatory accusations in articles and videos on its websites.
"Defendant eventually published Stanton's accusations in a book available for online purchase by the public.
"Defendant's publications of the online interviews and the book concerning plaintiff imply, as a whole, that plaintiff is an attorney who has engaged in criminal activity and is worthy of public scorn and contempt.
"The false statements published by defendant are defamatory per se and damages to the reputation of Plaintiff are presumed as a matter of law."
Parks claims the defendant published a defamatory article about her on www.vibe.com, on March 14, under the headline, "'Real Housewives of Atlanta' Star Phaedra Parks Exposed!" She says a similar article an interview were published at uptownmagazine.com, both of which were still online when she filed the complaint Tuesday.
She claims the articles "convey a grossly inaccurate and false impression of Stanton's relationship with plaintiff," and "falsely accuse plaintiff of being a crooked attorney who knows how to commit crimes, has committed crimes, and knows how to cover up her criminal activity."
Parks claims Vibe published all of Stanton's allegations in the book "Lies of a Real Housewife: Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil."
Parks lists many excerpts from the book, including "Phaedra Parks was a snake I allowed to slither her way into my life. Once she got close enough to bite, she did! As she slithered away, she left me to die a slow and sure death. The heifer never even looked back. ...
"Phaedra was this crooked attorney who knew how to commit crimes against the federal government. She also knew how to get away. Phaedra Parks had studied the law extensively, and learned how to manipulate the cracks in the system. ...
"Phaedra Parks broke several rules governed by the State Bar of Georgia".
After 6 pages of such excerpts, the complaint states: "The gist of the book, that plaintiff is a crooked attorney who engages in professional misconduct and a multitude of criminal acts, is false and defamatory.
"The book in its entirety constitutes libel per se
in that it imputes criminal activity to plaintiff. ...
"Prior to the publication, and evidencing a reckless disregard of truth or falsity, defendant failed and refused to provide plaintiff with an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against her in the articles, interviews, and the book.
"Defendant knowingly and purposely avoided and ignored evidence establishing the falsity of the articles, interviews, and the book prior to publishing them. ...
"Prior to the publication of the false and defamatory statements, defendant had actual knowledge that the criminal activity alleged by Stanton had occurred many years ago and had been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement authorities with no criminal charges being brought against plaintiff, but with criminal charges being brought against Stanton, which resulted in her incarceration in prison.
"Evidencing a reckless disregard for truth or falsity, defendant published accusations against Plaintiff without conducting even a cursory investigation, which failure constitutes gross negligence.
"Defendant had actual knowledge that the accusations against plaintiff were false prior to publication."
Finally, Parks says: "Despite having received letters on March 16, 2012 and April 27, 2012 informing defendant that the statements they published in the articles and the book were false and defamatory and demanding that the statements be retracted and corrected, defendant has failed to retract or correct its false and defamatory statements."
Parks seeks trial by jury, more than $5 million in compensatory damages, $25 million in punitive damages, attorney fees and a published retraction of the articles and book.
Her lead counsel is Lin Wood with Wood, Hernacki & Evans.