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Pain clinic sues sheriff; alleges harassment

The attorney for the Iron-Rock Clinic on State Route 93 has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Lawrence County Sheriff’s department.

In his suit, Portsmouth attorney Gary Billiter alleges that Sheriff Tim Sexton and his deputies have made defamatory statements about the clinic, and have interfered with the clinic’s ability to operate as a business.

The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners is also named as a defendant in the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that Sexton and others "made statements to the local media concerning the operation" of the clinic, acted in a malicious manner and with reckless disregard for the probability of the statements, knowing that said statements would be widely circulated in the local media."

Billiter says that all of the alleged statements about the clinic are "wholly false" and "have injured" the Iron-Rock Clinic’s reputation.

The lawsuit further alleges that Sexton and others harassed clinic employees and patients and has used "coercive tactics" to "discourage … patients from patronizing Plaintiff’s place of business."

The document mentions that patients and their cars were "regularly and repeatedly" photographed, even after being told to stop.

The clinic has come under scrutiny since it opened May 1. Residents in the area called the sheriff’s office, asking that authorities look into the new business which they feared might be an illegal "prescription factory."

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. said that, like the sheriff’s office, his office has fielded numerous phone calls from people who are concerned with the goings-on at the Iron-Rock Clinic.

Collier said he believes the suit is completely without merit.

"I feel the sheriff is doing a great job, and I don’t look at this lawsuit as being legitimate," Collier said. "I think the sheriff has been in line with his comments and I think the truth is a defense to any claim."

The Ironton Tribune attempted to contact Billiter about the lawsuit. A phone call to his office was not returned by press time. Sheriff Sexton, meanwhile, is on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune