Shortly after being found “not guilty” of embezzlement by a Loudoun County jury, Deanne “Dee Dee” Hubbard, editor of the Middleburg Eccentric, has filed a defamation action against her chief antagonists, Jack J. Goehring, III, and his wife, Mary Kirk Goehring, in Loudoun County Circuit Court.
For over a decade, Deanne “Dee Dee” Hubbard managed Middleburg, Virginia properties co-owned by Jack Goehring and his wife. She also lived in one of their rental properties with her son and daughter-in-law and she and her daughter rented space in one of the Goehrings’ commercial buildings. Ms. Hubbard was responsible for collecting rents from the Goehring properties. When Mr. Goehring discovered several rent checks had found their way into accounts Ms. Hubbard controlled, rather than into his accounts, he urged the Commonwealth Attorney’s office to prosecute Hubbard. Ms. Hubbard claimed she’d mistakenly marked the checks for the wrong accounts and set the accounts right as soon as the error was discovered.
Ms. Hubbard was prosecuted on fourteen felony embezzlement charges but was acquitted of all charges. Now, she and several family members have sued Goehring and his wife for waging “a campaign of malicious prosecution, libel, slander, and defamation.” The complaint paints Mr. Goehring as a vindictive man intent upon securing the charges against Ms. Hubbard and ratcheting up the surrounding publicity so as to defame and humiliate her. It accuses Goehring of filing an affidavit with the Middleburg Bank accusing Hubbard and her family members of identity theft, using his personal identifying information to obtain money, goods, services and other benefits without his authorization. The plaintiffs claim Goehring made false statements to law enforcement authorities that led to Hubbard’s arrest, arranged to have a friend photograph Hubbard being taken into custody in handcuffs, and then helped the photographer find a buyer for the photos. Ultimately, the photos appeared on television, in the local paper and on the Internet.
The complaint recites a series of allegedly libelous statements Goehring made, on behalf of himself and his wife, to the Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney handling the case. For example, in one email, Goehring reportedly called Hubbard a “crafty talented thief’ and accused her of stealing $122,000 from him and his wife over a two-year period. In others, he allegedly called her a “master criminal/con artist” and accused the family of fraud, conspiracy, forgery, and embezzlement and referred to them as a “crime family.”
The plaintiffs claim Goehring maliciously defamed them–and continues to do so–so he could evict them from his properties and obtain back rents from them to which he is not entitled. Each plaintiff seeks $500,000 in compensation as well as punitive damages for damage to reputation, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and similar losses. Ms. Hubbard seeks an additional $500,000 against the Goehrings for malicious prosecution.
Virginia courts generally disfavor actions for malicious prosecution arising out of criminal proceedings so as to ensure appropriate criminal cases are brought without fear of civil reprisals. But the law allows such cases where the allegations were false and the individual instituted or cooperated in the criminal action maliciously, without probable cause, and the case terminated favorably for the plaintiff.