Unless you’ve been living under a rock, and I envy you if you have, you’re probably well aware of the Danny Sheridan/Cam Newton/Paul Finebaum saga that has transpired over the last few weeks. Long story short, three weeks ago, Danny Sheridan, an oddsmaker who makes odds while saying he’s not an oddsmaker, claimed that he would give Paul Finebaum’s listeners the name of a person that the NCAA had identified as the “bag man” between Auburn and Cecil Newton.
He actually claimed that he would be on the show two weeks after that date, but mysteriously, and conveniently, he got tied up with travel. Apparently his cell phone was roaming and he just didn’t want to pay the extra charges.
So then he promised that he would be on the next week, which turned out to be yesterday.
In what was no surprise to any person I know, Sheridan came on the show armed with a lawyer and refused to give the name up. He said something along the lines of “I have the name, but I can’t give it to you because I’ll be sued.” He went on to say that he would not give up his source as well because they would be immediately fired.
As expected, Twitter immediately blew up as the entire sports world, including a few members of the national media, bashed Sheridan. Soon after, a few of those who are well versed in legalese informed us that what Sheridan was saying about being sued was not true. If he was telling the truth, nothing could be done to him. The truth is the perfect defense, or something like that.
As you can tell, I don’t know anything about this sort of law (or any law), so to get some clarification I spoke to Zach Alsobrook, a Senior Partner at Lakeman, Peagler, Hollett & Alsobrook.
He presented to me these sections of Alabama Code 1975 § 6-5-180, along with his interpretation of how they pertain to Sheridan’s claims.
Code of Alabama Currentness
Title 6. Civil Practice.
Article 11. . Defamation, Libel, and Slander. (Refs & Annos)
§ 6-5-180. Import of accusations of false swearing or commission of crime.
Every accusation of false swearing presumptively imports a charge of perjury, and every accusation importing the commission of a crime punishable by indictment must be held presumptively to mean what the language used ordinarily imports.
Alsobrook: This has little to do with this situation, but means that if Danny were to go under oath and give false information that he knew to be untrue then a presumptive criminal charge of perjury could be entered against him. Saying something on Paul Finebaum is NOT swearing under oath.
§ 6-5-182. Libel or slander — Burden of proof.
In an action for libel or slander, the plaintiff must prove, unless it shall be admitted by the defendant, the facts showing that the alleged defamatory matter was published or spoken of the plaintiff.
Alsobrook: What this means, when read alongside current Alabama Supreme Court Case Law, is that if someone were to bring suit against Danny, then the burden would be completely on that person (NOT Danny) to prove that the statements made were both a lie and that they were stated in a defamatory manner in public. Danny would have to prove NOTHING until the Plaintiff met his burden that the alleged statements were blatantly false.
§ 6-5-183. Libel or slander — Mitigation of damages — Evidence of truth or circumstances.
In all actions of slander or libel, the truth of the words spoken or written or the circumstances under which they were spoken or written may be given in evidence under a general denial in mitigation of the damages.
Alsobrook: This means that “the truth of the words spoken” would be a TOTAL DEFENSE AGAINST ANY AND ALL MONETARY DAMAGES. If Danny believed in what he says he “knows,” then he should have no fear whatsoever of being sued because the person that would have to sue him would know, point blank, whether it was true or not. If there was any truth at all to it, then no person would go through the enormous legal costs it would take to bring suit if there was any way it could even be possibly (not beyond a reasonable doubt, but only by a mere “preponderance of the evidence”) shown that Danny might have had a legitimate reason to believe that said person might have been involved, even if it was shown to be a mistake.
§ 6-5-184. Libel or slander — Mitigation of damages — Retraction.
The defendant in an action of slander or libel may prove under a general denial in mitigation of damages that the charge was made in good faith by mistake or through inadvertence or misapprehension, and that he has retracted the charge in the same medium of publication as the charge was originally promulgated and in a prominent position therein.
Alsobrook: Simply put, if Danny truly believes in what he says he knows then saying it on the radio would be completely protected because intent is EVERYTHING under this cause of action. The words “made in good faith by mistake or through inadvertence or misapprehension” protects Danny 100% if he believed and had a plausible reason to believe that the words he spoke were true. The only way he would be legally on the hook is if it were shown by a Plaintiff that Danny’s statements were a lie, that Danny knew they were a lie, and that no reasonable person would have believed them to be true.
Bottom line: if Sheridan was worried about being sued, any evidence of “truth” or any evidence that the information in his statement was made in good faith but by mistake, would completely exonerate him of ALL liability.
Despite what he said about someone losing their job or about him losing a confidential informant, he would NOT be facing criminal charges therefore he would NEVER be forced to reveal anything.
Got all that? Good. What I gather from it is that this is pretty basic stuff that any lawyer should know. So why doesn’t Sheridan’s fancy lawyer understand it, or why would he even put the idea of being sued in Danny’s head? One word: shady.
To be honest with you, both Sheridan and his lawyer sounded like hot-headed egomaniacs. They kept challenging the media to come on there and talk directly to them. They made sensational and bold claims in attempts to deflect from the simple fact that yes, Danny may have a name, but as today’s charade proved, he is not confident in what he was told. Something happened to change his mind. Barrett Sallee has a pretty a good idea of just what it was.
The fact of the matter is that Sheridan’s ego wrote a check a few weeks ago that he can not cash. He scrambled and he got no definitive answer, or at least no name he’s willing to throw under the bus because he isn’t positive now that it’s the right one.
He did admit today that he would have never made this claim a few weeks ago if he knew that it would receive this sort of backlash. Oh well Danny, it’s too late. If you want us to forget, then admit you are done and admit the truth behind all of this.
Stop being so defensive when someone calls you out. Stop making claims that you can’t back up in an attempt to win an argument. Stop trying to prove to the world that you have credible sources. Just post your odds for USA Today (because you are an oddsmaker) and move on, but not before apologizing to Auburn, Auburn fans, the Newtons, and the rest of the people who wasted their time expecting big news from you.
This is your responsibility. Man up and fix it.