Attorneys for The Sun News and investigative reporter David Wren have filed an appeal in the lawsuit of Myrtle Beach area lobbyist Mark Kelley, according to court records.
The notice was filed with the S.C. Court of Appeals a month after an Horry County jury ruled in favor of Kelley against the newspaper and Wren on claims Kelley was defamed in articles written in 2010 about campaign contributions made a year earlier.
On May 8, the jury awarded $400,000 in actual damages and $250,000 in punitive damages against the newspaper and Wren. The jury deliberated for more than four hours before reaching unanimous verdicts on the two types of damages.
Kelley filed the suit in May 2012 against Wren and The Sun Publishing Co., seeking actual damages to compensate for “his loss of and/or damage to his good name, his personal and business reputation,” according to the suit.
The articles dealt with a June 2009 luncheon attended by Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brad Dean, Kelley, then-S.C. gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett and a Barrett campaign staff member. At the luncheon, Dean presented Barrett with an envelope containing $84,000 in campaign donations, most of which were on sequentially numbered checks from LLCs (Limited Liability Corporations) drawn on the same bank.
Kelley said the wording of the articles, which appeared in May 2010, accused him of violating state ethics laws that prohibit lobbyists from soliciting or handling campaign donations for statewide candidates.
Attorneys for The Sun News and Wren said the accounts did not defame Kelley or his reputation, but were part of a series of stories about campaign contributions and were seeking to determine where the money, including that distributed at the luncheon, came from.