HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Former state senate candidate John Gallman has filed a lawsuit against State Senator Luke Rankin and numerous others over campaign ads that claimed Gallman abused his ex-wife.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Gallman is suing for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and civil conspiracy.
The lawsuit claims Rankin and others ran ads that falsely claimed Gallman abused his ex-wife. It also claims a “packet of information” containing what appeared to be a Dropbox filed with 531 of documents from Gallman’s divorce was distributed to media outlets after being paid for by Rankin.
The documents published also allegedly contained confidential information about a 10-year-old’s mental health. The lawsuit claims the documents had notes from an interview concerning possible abuse of the child from a third-party, not Gallman.
Gallman is also suing the owner of MyHorryNews.com — referenced as “Boschult Group” in the lawsuit — for publishing a story June 16, 2020 with “incomplete and misleading” information from those documents. The publisher is also accused of refusing to publish evidence offered by Gallman that showed the abuse allegations were false, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Rankin’s campaign ads directly mentioned the MyHorryNews.com article that was published from those documents. The Director of the Children’s Recovery Center allegedly asked Rankin to stop running the ads, as they contained the 10-year-old’s confidential mental health records, but the ads were never removed.
The lawsuit claims that interview notes were never provided to anyone outside of the CRC and that MyHorryNews.com obtained them illegally.
The same day the MyHorryNews.com article was published, the Emerson Group submitted a 30-second ad called “LRLindsayFinal” which was to be televised, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the ad referenced quotes from the article that hadn’t been published at the time.
According to the lawsuit, the Emerson Group is made up of the defendants Julie Emerson, Laginappe Communication’s Group, LLC, Ace Tomato Enterprises, LLC, and Robert Cahaly.
The lawsuit states that the Boschult Group and the Emerson Group “coordinated communications” without disclosing it to the South Carolina Ethics Commission. It also alleges that the ad was approved by Rankin’s wife.
Gallman believes the Emerson Group, the American Industry Project Group, and Rankin knew about the documents and the article before it was published.
The lawsuit also claims a television ad was created that included a fake 911 call made by Gallman’s ex-wife. The lawsuit states Gallman was the one who made the 911 call, not his ex-wife.
The fake call was ordered and paid for by Julie Emerson and Laginappe Communications Group on behalf of the SC Industry Project on June 17, 2020, according to the lawsuit. The commercial also shows the illegally obtained records of the 10-year-old’s mental health, according to the lawsuit.
The Emerson Group purchased times to run the fake 911 call and the LRLindsayFinal video in every available time slot on three local television stations at a cost of $77,225, according to the lawsuit.
The defendants are also accused of publishing flyers stating Gallman abused his wife, was an unfit father, and was mentally unstable, according to the lawsuit.
The Rankin Group published a Facebook ad on June 21, 2020 that provided a link to the MyHorryNews.com article, the lawsuit says. Also published was a video that said “Suspect Name: John Gallman” and “Say NO! to domestic VIOLENCE” over pictures of Gallman’s face, according to the lawsuit.
Another flyer was published by the Emerson Group on behalf of the AIP group that said “punching, threats, surveillance, broken bones, terrified children. John Gallman is every mother’s nightmare,” according to the lawsuit.
Flyers were also mailed out that accused Gallman of being a child kidnapper by saying “Amber Alert Threat” next to his name, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit points to several other ads that claimed Gallman was abusive. The lawsuit says no evidence of abuse was ever found. Gallman was never charged with any crimes.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that since Rankin allegedly coordinated with the defendants, the $77,225 paid to local television stations should have been disclosed to the State Ethics Commission.
Gallman is asking for a trial by jury. He’s seeking unspecified damages.
News13 reached out to all parties mentioned in the lawsuit for comment. MyHorryNews.com does not wish to comment at this time. American Industry Project could not be reached. No other party has responded to our request for comment as of the time of publishing.
Read the full lawsuit below: