USA

Lawsuit: Campaign and ex-cop's stepmom defamed company

ATLANTA -- A Georgia congressional candidate’s campaign conspired with the stepmother of the former Atlanta police officer who killed Rayshard Brooks to publicly smear the woman’s former employer after she was fired, according to a lawsuit filed by the company.

The defamation lawsuit filed Tuesday by Equity Prime Mortgage says the company's former human resources manager, Melissa Rolfe, joined forces with Marjorie Taylor Greene and her campaign to “peddle the false narrative” that the company had fired Rolfe “for fighting for her stepson and being his stepmom.” Rolfe's stepson is Garrett Rolfe, who fatally shot Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, outside a Wendy's restaurant in Atlanta.

Greene, a businesswoman who has expressed support for the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon and been criticized for a series of racist comments, on Tuesday won the Republican nomination for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.

Lin Wood, a lawyer representing both Greene and Melissa Rolfe, called the allegations “damnable lies.”

“We have documentary evidence from Equity Prime that no such conduct had ever occurred and, in fact, they praised her when they told her to take some time off after they found out that her stepson had been involved in the shooting,” Wood said in a phone interview. "So Equity Prime Mortgage thinks, I guess, that it’s getting some tactical advantage by running to the courthouse and suing Melissa. Bad mistake.”

The lawsuit says Melissa Rolfe, who had worked at Equity Prime Mortgage since February, “repeatedly violated company policy and created an uncomfortable and hostile working environment” by making crude and racist comments to other employees.

The next day, a Friday, her stepson shot Brooks, and she asked to work from home the following Monday. The company granted her eight weeks of paid leave “in light of her family situation” and continued investigating, the lawsuit says. During the investigation, “a flood of employees” complained about “wildly unprofessional and hostile conduct,” and the company fired her on June 18.

That same day, Melissa Rolfe conspired with Greene and her campaign to defame the company and promote the falsehood that Rolfe had done nothing wrong and was fired because of her stepson, the lawsuit alleges. Rolfe, Greene and her campaign “jointly coordinated the planting of a false story with Tucker Carlson Tonight, authorizing, intending, and expecting that their false claims would be broadcast to a worldwide internet audience.”

Equity Prime Mortgage put out a public statement saying that Rolfe's termination “was a direct result of her actions in the workplace and violation of company policy.”

The company asked that the false claims be retracted, but the lawsuit says Rolfe, Greene and her campaign doubled down, repeating their false accusations.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Fulton County State Court against Rolfe and Greene's campaign, but not Greene herself, asks for a jury trial. It also seeks unspecified “actual, presumed and punitive damages."

Wood, the lawyer for Rolfe and Greene, said it is Equity Prime Mortgage that defamed Rolfe and is going to find itself in legal trouble.

“This was a political stunt and an ill-conceived plan to try to get legal advantage,” he said. “They know Melissa Rolfe was going to sue them, rightfully so.”

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