Local radio host Austin Rhodes sued for defamation by Evans resident

·3 min read

Correction: Earlier versions of this story contained details of Faller's complaint that he provided no proof for, and which Rhodes has now denied. They have been removed.

Local radio host Austin Rhodes is being sued for defamation by an Evans resident, James S. Faller II.

In a lawsuit, Faller alleges that Rhodes, who hosts a talk show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WGAC, defamed him by bringing up a past felony conviction on air, and calling him a "con man," "fraud" and a liar, as well as comparing him to a mafia hit man.

Rhodes said Monday night he believes the case to be nonsense, brought by someone “who makes outrageous claims regularly, and is not to be believed."

Rhodes also talked on-air about calling a number of officials to "warn them about this idiot, a conman," according to the suit, after Faller went to some Columbia County Republican events.

"There is no pardon coming for this guy," Rhodes allegedly said on air. "He's now under federal release of – federal supervised releases … This is me going after somebody just like I go after the Democrats, when they can cozy up to felons."

The lawsuit also names Beasley Media Group, LLC and "Unknown Contributors" who have advertised on the Rhodes show.

Faller said he has been very open about his past with everyone, including local elected officials like Reps. Rick Allen and Jody Hice, whom he approached for help in overturning his convictions.

Nathan S. Chapman, the Pope F. Brock Associate Professor in professional responsibility at University of Georgia Law School who teaches on First Amendment issues, said that defamation cases are often hard to win.

"You're dealing with pretty amorphous concepts at every step," he said.

Among these are determining whether the allegedly defamatory statements are claims about facts or just opinions, which are protected under the first amendment, whether the speaker was negligent in checking that the facts are true, and whether there was actual harm to someone's reputation.

"It is tough, and I think realistically you have a much better chance if the person seems to be acting maliciously," Chapman said.

Faller says he is a "Highly Specialized Autodidact-lawyer" in his complaint. He does not show up in a member search on the Georgia Bar Association website.

According to public announcements, Faller was convicted of multiple counts of tax evasion in 2015 and sentenced to three years in prison. He appealed the case, but the conviction was upheld in 2017 by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Faller said he is now appealing the conviction again.

"The appeal I can make now is because I can prove actual innocence," he said.

Faller was indicted last year on a separate federal criminal case, which was dismissed at the request of the prosecutor in November 2020. A search of federal courts shows Faller involved in 35 cases, mostly as a plaintiff in civil suits.

"35 is probably light," he told The Chronicle.

Faller said in the suit that he contacted Rhodes in January of this year to tell him the charges were being dismissed or settled, and to say that two of his children had died and a four-year-old child raped because of government misconduct, because Faller is a whistleblower. He provided The Chronicle with a recording of a phone conversation he said he had with Rhodes, which broadly matches the comments he alleges Rhodes made in the lawsuit.

"You are a federal felon, you should know better than to stand next to politicians," Rhodes said on the call.

Faller said that he found the allegation he was lying particularly frustrating.

"He's going on all this stuff about I'm a liar about my kids," Faller told The Chronicle. "Austin kept saying I was full of crap, that was the problem."

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Augusta GA radio host sued for defamation by Evans autodidact lawyer

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