LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Terry Meiners found not guilty in speeding case; officer threatens defamation lawsuit


A Jefferson District Court jury deliberated only a few minutes Monday night before finding longtime radio personality Terry Meiners not guilty of speeding in a case where Meiners has been threatened with a defamation suit .

After the verdict, Meiners went to shake the hand of Louisville Metro Police Officer Sam Cromity, who brushed by him before turning back and telling Meiners that if he was going to call the officer a liar he should do it "to my face."

The testimony during the trial Monday centered nearly as much on threatened civil litigation against Meiners as it did on whether he was speeding when Cromity pulled him over on March 18 and accused him of going 75 mph in a 55 mph zone on the Watterson Expressway.

According to the testimony, Cromity and a civil attorney have threatened a defamation lawsuit against Meiners and demanded an on-air retraction and financial compensation, claiming he called the officer a liar on the radio 15 times and referred to him as "Black Barney" and "Black Car Barney."

During the trial, Cromity, who is African American, said he was offended by what Meiners said and went to WHAS radio to get a copy of the comments before going to an attorney.

Cromity declined to comment after the jury's verdict, though he was visibly angry.

Meiners told jurors that the "Black Barney" reference had nothing to do with race but instead with the color of Cromity's vehicle, a black Ford Mustang, and with the officer's notoriety in patrolling that area. Meiners said he created a character combining the outlaw Black Bart and Andy Griffith's deputy, Barney Fife.

Asked by Assistant County Attorney Matthew Welch whether he called Cromity a liar 15 times, Meiners acknowledged he had and that he did it again "two more (times) today."

"I was furious about it," Meiners said, telling jurors he was going nowhere near 75 mph when he was pulled over while on the way to work. "I could have just paid this (ticket), but I'm not going to let him lie about me."

At one point Meiners spoke directly to Cromity, who sat with Welch during the trial, when testifying about the character he created for his radio show, saying that Barney Fife has been a recurring character for 20 years and nothing he said had anything to do with race.

"I don't even know what you are talking about," Meiners said to Cromity.

Meiners also said that when Cromity came to his work at WHAS to get a tape of the statements, he confronted Cromity and again said he was lying.

Steven Pence, Meiners' attorney, told jurors that "what is at stake here for Officer Cromity is money" from a civil trial, and he also said Cromity was a liar.

"I called him a liar; he can sue me if he wants," Pence told the jury, made up of four men and two women.

In an interview after the verdict, Pence said "truth is an absolute defense" and Meiners told the truth about Cromity on the radio.

Meiners thanked jurors during an interview and said he was "stunned that it came to this" but was glad the jury system worked.

"'I'm not guilty," he said.

During the trial, Pence told jurors Cromity had no proof Meiners was speeding, was talking on the phone when he pulled him over and lied about how long he had been following Meiners.

Before trial, Pence requested Cromity's phone records, access to his police cruiser and information about Cromity's court pay.

For his part, Cromity has said in court that he treated Meiners no differently than anyone else and called the requests a "far fetched hunt."

Cromity acknowledged during his testimony he was on the phone with a friend when he pulled Meiners over but said it did not effect the stop.

Cromity pulled another vehicle over at the same time Meiners was stopped, also citing him for driving 75 mph. The driver of that vehicle testified that he didn't think he was going 75, but was driving over the speed limit and that Meiners was coming up quickly behind him.

Andrew Horne, Cromity's civil attorney, said the not guilty verdict does give Meiners a better defense if there is a lawsuit, but doesn't prevent a suit, especially with personal comments the radio host made about Cromity.

"After listening to the radio show, I understand why he was upset," Horne said, adding that he is still evaluating the recordings and no decision has been made regarding a suit.

"Officer Cromity is going to take a look at what his options are and make a decision," he said.