Alexandria Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel filed suits yesterday against two newspapers, six reporters and four others who he says repeated or printed false and defamatory statements about him. The three suits ask for a total of $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Strobel also filed a suit against the City of Alexandria for $8,600 in legal fees he said he incurred as result of a special grand jury investigation earlier this year into his handling of a drug investigation. His suit says that the Alexandria City Council, which called for an investigation in the matter, has refused to pay his legal costs.
One of Strobel's three suits, filed in Alexandria Circuit Court, names the Packet Corporation, publisher of The Port Packet, and its former managing editor, Alicia Mundy, as defendants. A second suit is against The Times Journal Company of Springfield, publisher of The Alexandria Journal, and four of its reporters, Adrian Higgins, Phyllis W. Jordan, Andrea Siegel, Connie O'Kane and former reporter Michael J. Burke. The third suit lists former police officers Morton Ford and Joseph Morrash, former detective Charles Cox and lawyer Mary Craig as defendants.
The suits stem from the controversy set off last December when Strobel was accused of aborting a drug investigation into suspected drug use at a city restaurant by Alexandria Sheriff Michael E. Norris. A special grand jury report in February cleared Strobel and Norris of any wrongdoing.
The suit against Morrash, Ford, Cox and Craig is similar to one Strobel filed against the four in federal court. It was dismissed by a federal judge and Strobel's lawyers said it would be filed again in a state court. The suit alleges the four formulated a "packet of false, scandalous, malicious and defamatory rumors and innuendoes" about Strobel "for dissemination to all who would listen." It asks $1.1 million in compensation and $900,000 in punitive damages.
The suit against The Port Packet seeks $2 million for "malicious defamation of Strobel's reputation and character." The Packet, an Alexandria newspaper, was the first to report the accusations against Strobel in articles written by Mundy. She is a special assignments editor for the paper.
Strobel's lawsuit against The Journal and five of its reporters asks $1 million. In that suit Strobel alleges that the defendants acted "with actual malice" when the paper printed an article saying that Strobel was accused during the grand jury investigation of blocking a murder investigation. The grand jury said Strobel was innocent of the accusation. The suit asks for $1 million in damages.
Mayor Charles E. Beatley said yesterday he was surprised by the suit over legal fees. He said the council ordered the city attorney to negotiate payment of legal fees with Strobel's lawyers. "We haven't said no to anything," said the mayor.