A LaFayette, Ga., car dealer got busted for defamation last month after he took out advertisements accusing a couple of stealing his trailer.
But Forrest Cate, owner of North Georgia Sales Center, thinks the ruling is not rooted in reality. He said the opposing council, Ben Bradford, convinced a Walker County jury that the world is backward. Cate is the true victim here, he explained.
"[Bradford] made a mockery of the legal system," Cate said. "He made fools out of a jury. He let a guy get away with stealing a trailer. He's a scoundrel."
And Bradford's take?
"Mr. Cate is a bully that cares more about winning than money," the lawyer said. "He wanted to use his financial superiority to crush [my clients]."
Not only did Cate lose his case, but a jury ordered him to pay Bradford's clients, Anthony and Arica Patterson, $75,000.
Cate plans to appeal the ruling.
"They thought they could screw a poor, little business man out of a trailer," he said. "And that's what they did."
In March 2015, the Pattersons tried to rent a U-Haul from Cate's business. A salesman told them he had no trailers to rent; but the couple could buy one. They only really needed one for a move, but the Pattersons purchased an enclosed trailer for $1,125 anyway. Anthony Patterson, an electrician, believed he could use it for work, Bradford said.
But two days later, the salesman called the Pattersons and told them the trailer was supposed to cost $2,500. How did he make that mistake? On the bill of sale, Bradford said, the salesman wrote the VIN number for a cheaper trailer. A sticker with the correct price was also on the trailer, but the Pattersons didn't see it until they got home.
Bradford said the Pattersons agreed to pay an extra $685, about half of what Cate wanted. Cate, meanwhile, said the Pattersons actually agreed to return the trailer. But they didn't do that. And Cate sent his salesman to their home in LaFayette.
Cate said the Pattersons hid the trailer. Bradford said Cate's salesman waited outside the house until they came outside.
Cate then applied for an arrest warrant in Walker County Magistrate Court, claiming the Pattersons committed theft by deception. A judge didn't go for it after a hearing in May 2015, finding no probable cause to issue a warrant.
A month later, Cate took out ads in the Walker County Messenger and Catoosa County News, asking for his trailer back.
"Last seen with Anthony C. and Arica Patterson," the ad stated, also listing their street address. "Trailer was taken from North Georgia Sales Center in LaFayette, Ga. in March without proper ownership, documentation and payment has not been returned. Any Sale Or Transfer of This Trailer From ANYONE Other Than Its' (stet) Rightful Owner NORTH GEORGIA SALES CENTER Is Illegal."
Bradford said he wrote letters to the local newspapers and Cate, demanding a retraction. He said the papers complied. He said Cate then tried to run the ad again; he was rebuffed. Bradford said Cate then ran the same ad in The Accelerator, a used-car magazine sold at gas stations.
Cate said he showed attorneys his ad before submitting it.
"They extorted the trailer out of me, and then they sued me for it," he said. "That's why you can't find good lawyers in North Georgia. Anybody with any real conscience won't practice law in Georgia."
Of Bradford, he added: "He's a clown director is what he is. He got up there and preached and sang like a circus director would to a gallery of contestants."
In an email, Bradford responded: "Mr. Cate hasn't learned anything. Mr. Cate is a wealthy man from a wealthy family that lives in a big house up on the mountain. He thinks he can come down here to LaFayette and push us around."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.