MATRIX DEFAMATION LAWSUIT STALLS
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on March 20, 2018
On November 13, 2017, Montgomery-based consulting firm Matrix, LLC, filed a highly publicized defamation case against my law firm (i.e., Donald V. Watkins, P.C.,) and me in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court. Matrix allowed the Tuscaloosa News to break the story about its lawsuit two days later.
Matrix offers services in opposition research, polling, public relations, and campaign management. In Alabama and Florida, Matrix is a well-known “dirty tricks” operative.
Tuscaloosa native Joe Perkins runs Matrix. He has been a leading political operative in the state for decades due to his role as the Alabama Education Association’s top consultant. Perkins has also been one of Alabama Power Company’s most trusted strategists.
Matrix aided the family of Terry Jackson “Sweet T” Bunn, Jr., in the publication of a pro-Bunn family story in the Alabama Political Reporter on August 21, 2017. In 2015, Sweet T was named a “suspect” in the Megan Rondini rape case. Megan, a University of Alabama honors student, committed suicide after Sweet T escaped criminal justice in her rape case.
Matrix also got the Tuscaloosa News to publish a July 27, 2017, Bunn family-sponsored attack ad against Megan Rondini and her family. Then, Matrix persuaded the News to publish a September 27, 2017 pro-Sweet T “investigative” article on the rape case. The article was long on verbiage, but short on substance.
To its credit, the Tuscaloosa News declined to print an ad that Matrix tried to place through a third party that advertised a website called “deadbeatdonald”. The website truncates and distorts, in a very negative way, a handful of legal cases involving my businesses. It also highlights a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Securities and Exchange Commission that asserts baseless allegations of securities fraud against me. The pertinent documents in the case contradict these claims.
On November 5, 2017, I published a Facebook article that described the "deadbeatdonald"website as a smear campaign and debunked each item listed on the website.
In their lawsuit, Matrix and Perkins claimed that my October and November 2017 Facebook investigative articles in the Megan Rondini rape case defamed them. “Watkins’ statements accuse Plaintiffs of crimes and/or extreme moral delinquency, and have subjected Plaintiffs to disgrace, ridicule, odium and/or contempt,” the lawsuit states. “Demand was made on Watkins on Nov. 3, 2017 to retract the above-reference defamatory statements. Watkins has failed to respond to said retraction letter.”
I stand by the facts presented in these articles. In Alabama, “truth” is a complete defense to a claim of defamation.
To my knowledge, Matrix’s lawsuit represents the first time a perennial “dirty tricks” operative has claimed “victim” status in a defamation case.
The one good thing about Matrix’s lawsuit is the fact that it will confer subpoena power upon the defendants, if and when the Complaint is served. With this power, we can dig deeper into Matrix, its client list, its “dirty tricks” means and methods, and its clandestine role in the Megan Rondini rape case.
On January 26, 2018, Matrix and Perkins asked the Court for permission to serve the defendants by publication after claiming that their private process servers were unsuccessful in serving the Complaint on me in person, despite multiple attempts to do so. In one of these attempts, a Matrix’s process server claimed he attempted service of the Complaint at my parent’s home in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Sadly, my parents reside in a cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.
Interestingly, each of the defendants named in Matrix’s defamation case has a listed address that appears in public records (e.g., voter registration records for Donald V. Watkins and business records for Donald V. Watkins, P.C.). I am the registered agent for service of process for Donald V. Watkins, P.C. For reasons I do not understand, none of Matrix’s process servers has requested an appointment with me at my office for the purpose of delivering the Complaint.
Matrix contends that I am willfully and unlawfully avoiding service of the Complaint in this case. This contention is patently false. I have never been present at any location where Matrix attempted service of the Complaint.
On March 2, 2018, the Court denied Matrix’s request for service by publication. It is unclear when Matrix’s Complaint will be served upon the defendants. For now, this defamation case appears to be stalled.
PHOTO: Political operative Joe Perkins runs Matrix.