Savannah Georgia : Savannah NOW : Top Stories : State trooper accuses TV anchor of slander | | Savannah Morning News

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Savannah Georgia. Savannah NOW. Top Stories. State trooper accuses TV anchor of slander

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State trooper accuses TV anchor of slander

By Ben Schmitt / Savannah Morning News

WSAV television anchor Susan Rodman stretched the news a bit too far after she was picked up for driving under the influence, a state trooper contends in a lawsuit.

Trooper Robert Byrd of the Georgia State Patrol is suing Rodman for slander after she accused him of falsifying a police report during her Nov. 2, 1996, arrest on drunken driving and speeding charges.

Rodman, 31, testified in January that her breath registered a 0.09 blood-alcohol level on Byrd’s portable alcohol sensor but that he deliberately ignored that and wrote 0.11 in his report. Either way, Rodman was legally drunk; the limit in Georgia is 0.08.

Byrd’s lawsuit in Chatham County State Court states Rodman’s blood-alcohol level registered 0.11 and that she falsely accused him of altering the test results.

»As a law enforcement officer, his reputation is paramount and of the utmost importance, and she has certainly hurt his reputation,» said Byrd’s attorney, Scott Kraeuter of the Savage, Herndon Turner law firm.

Kraeuter said without elaborating that other evidence exists in addition to Rodman’s testimony that led to the slander suit. Byrd did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Byrd is asking for a jury trial, attorneys fees and an unspecified amount of money.

Rodman and her attorney in the DUI case, Benjamin Eichholz, declined comment Tuesday.

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WSAV (channel 3) News Director Michael Sullivan said, »This is a personal matter between two individuals and not involving WSAV-TV.» Station officials had no other comment.

Rodman originally pleaded not guilty in Chatham County Recorder’s Court to the drunken driving and speeding charges.

During a Jan. 21 hearing she testified that Byrd — besides doctoring his police report — intimidated her and ignored her requests to see an attorney.

»I don’t have an inherent mistrust for law enforcement officers. But I do know that at times they’re not as forthright as, y’know. » she said.

Byrd testified that he caught Rodman shortly after 3 a.m. Nov. 2 driving 53 mph through a 40 mph zone on President Street near then-uncompleted Truman Parkway. Rodman had been returning home from a party with other members of the WSAV staff.

Two days after pleading not guilty, Rodman changed her plea to no contest, meaning she neither admitted nor denied responsibility.

Judge LeRoy Burke sentenced Rodman to pay court costs and a $1,000 fine, with $500 suspended; to served a year of probation and to perform 40 hours of community service. She also was ordered to take alcohol- and drug-risk classes.

After her sentencing, Rodman apologized on the air for her DUI but did not address her accusations against Byrd.

Rodman joined WSAV in 1995 as one of the NBC affiliate’s three news anchors. She has worked in Memphis, Tenn. and Austin, Texas.

Web posted 7/30/97

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