A defamation suit filed by former Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Robert Payne referred to 16 of the man's neighbors as "bald faced liars" for aiding prosecutors in his conviction last year on charges of indecent exposure and pointing a firearm.
Payne, 69, was arrested Memorial Day weekend 2011 after officers responded to complaints of a man with a shotgun drinking and urinating off of a houseboat that was moored near the Bayview Acres subdivision outside of Shem Creek.
Officers reportedly heard a shotgun blast while at the scene and saw Payne walking toward them with the gun's barrel pointed in the air.
Payne said Thursday that he only fired the weapon as a "practical joke" to get back at a group of neighbors who wanted him gone.
"It never occurred to me that they would lie," Payne said of neighbor Graham Stone and a second man who reported that they thought he had fired the gun toward them. "I'm a vegan. I don't believe in killing anything."
No one was injured in the incident.
Neighbors have refuted Payne's allegations and insist that they told the truth.
A Charleston County jury last year found Payne not guilty on a first-degree assault and battery charge, largely due to questions about whether he fired the weapon in the air or toward his neighbor.
He was sentenced to three years in prison but because he had already spent two years in jail awaiting trial he was eligible for an early release after only 18 days in a state correctional facility.
Payne maintained that he was innocent of both the indecent exposure and pointing a firearm charges for which he was tried.
At most, he said, he was guilty of discharging a firearm within town limits.
He said he hopes to overturn his convictions on appeal.
Court documents filed by Payne in April accused a group of 16 defendants of perjury, saying they slandered, libeled and defamed his name throughout the community, news media, law enforcement and in court.
In addition, the documents said, one of the defendants hurt Payne's reputation by telling a dance partner of his that he was "crazy and dangerous." Several others, he said, were only spreading lies when they accused him of threatening and terrorizing them.
"They made it all up. They spread false rumors and I expect to stop the lies," Payne said. "Most of these people I never even met before. They claim I terrorized them, but I couldn't even identify them on the street if my life depended on it. I'm just trying to clear my name."
Payne said he'd drop the civil suit if the group agreed to take a polygraph test that he said would prove him right.
Stone, a named defendant in the suit, said he denied a request from Payne's lawyer last year asking that he take a polygraph and he doesn't plan on taking any action regarding Payne's latest play against him.
"I just ignore everything from him. Once you get involved it costs money," Stone said.
"It's a nuisance to me and my wife who is recovering from cancer. He already took a shot at me with a shotgun once. We haven't been harassing him."
Representing one of the neighbors, attorney S. Markey Stubbs filed a motion last month to dismiss the suit since the complaint didn't appear to have been delivered to her through certified mail.
The motion also indicated that the legal requirements to sue for defamation weren't met in Payne's complaint, considering the documents failed to specify "the third-party to whom said statements were asserted, the date and substance of said statements, or the identities of any of the alleged publications."
Stubbs said that the case was in litigation and that the court will resolve the situation, but he declined to discuss the situation further.
"We will not be talking to the press," Stubbs said in an email.
Payne said he blames his neighbors for the two years he spent awaiting trial at the Cannon Detention Center, adding that the "cops beat me until I was deaf" during his stint at the jail.
Charleston County sheriff's Maj. Eric Watson said he wasn't aware of any such beatings.
"They kept me in solitary so I couldn't even get in any exercise. I certainly didn't get my raw fruits and veggies," Payne said regarding his vegan diet.
Payne said he had asked a judge for leniency in his sentencing, contending that he wouldn't receive adequate care for his prostate cancer if locked away for long at a correctional institution.
Since his release, Payne said he's turned down doctor's recommendations for chemotherapy in favor of a raw fruit and vegetable diet.
He said he hopes to have his convictions overturned before possibly succumbing to his disease.
Payne served as a Mount Pleasant town councilman from 1976 to 1980.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
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