Reality star Todd Chrisley sued for libel by former Georgia tax department employee

The ‘Chrisley Knows Best’ star used to live in Georgia and has been sued for tax fraud.

A former Georgia Department of Revenue employee has filed a federal lawsuit accusing reality star Todd Chrisley of defamation after he accused her of all sorts of criminal misdeeds on social media and on his podcast.

The state tax department, where Amy Doherty-Henize was employed, pursued a tax fraud investigation case against Chrisley and his wife Julie in 2017.

The Chrisleys in 2019 settled Georgia’s $2.1 million tax-evasion charges, agreeing to pay about $148,000.

Doherty-Heinze said Chrisley used his podcast “Chrisley Confessions” between March 9 and July 7, 2020, to attack her, “accusing her of a multitude of crimes and wrongdoing,” according to the lawsuit filed in Georgia federal court July 9. She said all the accusations are all false.

On Instagram, Chrisley accused Doherty-Heinze of using taxpayer’s money to go to Disney World during a work trip. The lawsuit said Doherty-Heinze’s sister, an employee at Disney, got her into the park for free via a family pass.

Chrisley, who used to live in Georgia but moved to Nashville in 2016, in multiple social media posts and on his podcast also insinuated that Doherty-Heinze “misappropriated taxpayer funds,” is “professionally unqualified” and “obtained her job... through nefarious means.” The lawsuit said all his statements are “false” and “defamatory.”

She said in the lawsuit she has suffered a blow to her reputation and has experienced “emotional and mental distress” due to Chrisley’s public comments against her, a private citizen. She said she was not a major player in the Chrisley investigation. She is seeking at least $75,000 in compensatory damages.

Christopher Anulewicz, an attorney representing Chrisley in various legal matters, called her lawsuit “frivolous. It’s merely an attempt by Ms. Doherty-Heinze to silence Mr. Chrisley about an issue of substantial public importance. Mr. Chrisley will vigorously defend his free-speech rights.”

The legal bar for libel and slander for a private citizen like Doherty-Heinze is far lower than for anyone considered a public figure.

In 2019, Chrisley sued Joshua Waites, director of the office of special investigations for Georgia’s revenue office who was Doherty-Heinze’s boss.

The lawsuit accused Waites of unfairly targeting the Chrisleys so he could bask in the media spotlight that came with going after celebrities. The lawsuit also said Waites threatened prosecution against numerous people and businesses on “dubious” tax-evasion claims, using the threats as leverage for civil asset forfeiture actions. The lawsuit specified six specific violations. In February 2020, a federal judge dismissed five of them but the other one is pending. The case is continuing.

Waites resigned from the revenue department in March 2020 while under investigation for falsely stating in a job application he had a degree from a college that doesn’t exist.

That same year, the Chrisleys and an employee were criminally indicted on 12 federal tax and bank fraud charges that allegedly happened between 2007 and 2012, before the reality show started.

“Todd and Julie Chrisley are charged not only with defrauding a number of banks by fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in loans, but also with allegedly cheating taxpayers by actively evading paying federal taxes on the money they earned,” said Byung J. “BJay” Pak, U.S. attorney at the time. “Celebrities face the same justice that everyone does. These are serious federal charges and they will have their day in court.”

Todd Chrisley, on social media in 2019, blamed an unnamed “trusted employee” who he said created phony documents, forged signatures, bugged their phones and threatened other employees with violence if they spoke of the actions of this employee. The employee was terminated in 2012.

“To get revenge, he took a bunch of his phony documents to the U.S. Attorney’s office and told them we had committed all kinds of financial crimes, like tax evasion and bank fraud,” Todd Chrisley wrote in an Instagram post.

That federal case is still pending.

Chrisley’s USA reality show “Chrisley Knows Best” debuted in 2014 and became a hit. The eighth season debuted last week. The network has aired more than 170 episodes.