DeKalb commissioner Adams’ assault denial fuels defamation lawsuit

DeKalb County Commissioner Greg Adams and his wife Jacqueline Adams. WSB-TV 2017 Photo
DeKalb County Commissioner Greg Adams and his wife Jacqueline Adams. WSB-TV 2017 Photo

DeKalb Commissioner Gregory Adams says he never sexually assaulted anyone. But his most recent denial could be providing new ammunition for defamation lawsuits Adams' accuser filed months ago.

Those suits were based largely on statements Adams and his wife, Jacqueline, made to the media in August shortly after Ashlee Wright’s allegations became public. At the time, she was seeking a $750,000 payment from the county to settle her sexual harassment claims out of court.

Wright never received any money. But in October a DeKalb County investigation determined that Gregory Adams had violated sexual harassment policies by making comments and sending texts to Wright that were inappropriate. He was ordered to attend training, which the entire Board of Commissioners completed on Dec. 12.

She filed separate lawsuits against the spouses in January and requested a jury trial in hopes of being awarded damages and attorney fees.

The lawsuits say that Gregory Adams called Wright a liar during an interview with the Champion newspaper published on Aug. 11. On the same day, On Common Ground New published an article saying Gregory Adams claimed Wright fabricated her story because she was a disgruntled employee.

Jacqueline Adams' was quoted in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Aug. 10 saying: "Anybody that knows him, they would know that what is being said is a lie. People have their underlying agendas."

The Adamses said they aren’t concerned the June 12 speech will provide Wright with more fodder for her lawsuits. They said they have the right to defend Gregory Adams against what they consider false claims and the suits have no merit.

“If you bring an allegation against me, I have every right to defend me because I know what I did and I didn’t do,” Gregory Adams said on Tuesday.

In their written responses to the suits, the Adamses denied making defamatory statements about Wright in August. Their attorney, former Gov. Roy Barnes, wrote that any comments the couple made were a matter of public concern and protected by the First Amendment.

The cases are pending, and no hearings have been scheduled. Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson recused herself from the suit involving Jacqueline Adams in March, but no explanation was given. The suit against Gregory Adams was filed in DeKalb State Court.

Adams said he decided to speak out at the end of the June 12 Board of Commissioners meeting after a local bishop encouraged him to address the allegations publicly. The issue has also been brought up on the campaign trail as he seeks another term in office.

Adams’ opponent in the July 24 runoff, Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, has a handout she shares at events that both promotes her campaign and included excerpts of news articles covering Wright’s initial complaint. Cochran-Johnson said she decided to create the flyer after tiring of answering questions about her opponent and the allegations he faced.

“It is much easier to give people the one-page that has the facts and go back to my platform,” she said.

During the three-minute speech at the end of the June 12 Board of Commissioners meeting, Adams said the allegations were “vicious lies” that caused him to be mocked and humiliated.

“It hurts so bad when you try to do for people and people try to exploit and extort and get money from you for their own profitable gain,” he said during the emotional three-minute speech.

The entire time, Jacqueline Adams stood up in the audience as a show of support. She usually accompanies her husband to meetings and community events, and he often refers to her as his unpaid chief of staff.

When Gregory Adams finished his speech, Jacqueline applauded. Later that evening after a local television station aired an interview with Wright’s attorney, Jacqueline Adams sent The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a statement she said should be attributed to her husband.

“How dare Robert James go on camera and talk of evidence,” it read. “Robert James sent me an extortion letter based on fabrications. Robert James should push forward with a lawsuit or some kind of charge, so his client will have to explain these fabrications under oath in front of a Judge.”

James did not return a call seeking comment about whether Wright’s lawsuits will be revised to reflect the Adamses most recent comments.

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