Calling its contents “inaccurate and scurrilous,” a state district judge on Tuesday ordered Jefferson Parish School Board member Cedric Floyd not to further distribute a misleading flyer about his opponent in Saturday's runoff for the District 5 seat.
Simeon Dickerson, Floyd’s challenger, sought the injunction against Floyd over the flyer, which incorrectly states that Dickerson was arrested in Jefferson Parish 20 years ago on counts of auto theft and battery on two police officers.
Dickerson was in fact a victim of identity theft when a man sought by police for those crimes falsely used his name. Dickerson went to court, provided fingerprints and cleared up the confusion.
But Floyd, a longtime and often controversial School Board member, sought to capitalize on the mix-up by distributing a flyer last month that selectively used information from the decades-old court documents to say Dickerson had been arrested.
Floyd continued to assert in the Gretna courtroom Tuesday that the flyer was technically correct, but 24th Judicial District Judge Nancy Miller disagreed.
“Clearly, the flyer contains inaccurate and scurrilous information about Mr. Dickerson,” Miller said before granting the restraining order, which also prevents Floyd from publicizing the flyer's allegations.
Floyd, who represented himself during the proceedings, tried to make the case that someone with the name Simeon Dickerson had been arrested, making the flyer accurate.
Miller, however, sustained several objections by Dickerson’s attorney, Ben Sanders, who said that while the earlier court documents may allege a crime, they do not “make any factual assertion that Simeon Dickerson was arrested that day.”
Much of the flyer’s damage may already have been done. Dickerson said he has repeatedly had to explain to voters that the allegations are false.
“Not only am I being questioned about it, I’m being attacked for it,” he said from the witness stand, a few feet away from Floyd. “I’ve been called a criminal; I’ve been called a thief.”
Dickerson said he had to get another background check for his job teaching seventh- and eighth-grade science at a New Orleans school.
“In this world of social media, those slanderous words, they travel,” he said. “A lot of his people have called me a criminal and said, ‘I’m not voting for you because you’re a criminal. You steal cars.’ ”
Dickerson said his home address was visible in the flyer and that five people have come to his home over it.
Ronald Wilson, an attorney and confidant of Floyd, was also a defendant in the suit because his name also was on the flyer.
School Board member Mark Morgan testified that Dickerson came to him asking about the flyer. Morgan said he then called Wilson to ask Floyd that they come to a gentleman’s agreement to not distribute the flyer during the runoff, but nothing came of it.
Morgan said his exchange with Wilson did not give him the impression Wilson knew what was in the flyer, even though his name was on it.
Miller granted a request to drop Wilson from the suit.
Dickerson said after the hearing that he plans to file a defamation suit against Floyd.