Augusta County Judge Orders Breaking Through Reporter to Publish Civil Case Documents
Written by: Breaking Through Editorial Team
STAUNTON, VIRGINIA - In an unprecedented move, Judge Cleveland of the Augusta County General District Court has ordered Breaking Through News to publish a document related to a confidential settlement agreement between Nexus Services Inc., the once Verona and now Delaware based company, and David Zimmerman of Verona, casting a shadow on press freedom and journalistic ethics.
This order comes several months after we initially reported on the case in August. Shortly after the story ran, Mike Donovan, the CEO of Nexus, requested that statements he had made, both in court and to our reporters, be excluded from our reporting. He indicated that these public statements had been retracted as part of a confidential settlement agreement. Breaking Through has obtained a copy of that agreement, which was notably signed by all parties after the date of the hearing.
Given the nature of the request and in respect to journalistic principles, Breaking Through News opted to delete the story. "Retracting information witnessed firsthand in court is not a practice we would entertain for anyone," said our editor, Sam Orlando.
However, the situation took an unexpected turn when the court, led by Judge Cleveland, ordered Orlando to publish specific portions of the confidential settlement agreement on Monday. Orlando was given 48 hours to post the document.
Orlando recalls the weight of the decision, stating, "Balancing journalistic and professional ethics is always at the forefront of our reporting. Yet, being faced with a court order to publish under the threat of incarceration was unimaginable." He added, "Not sharing this narrative would be a disservice to the essence of a free press."
Today, in compliance with the order and underlining our commitment to transparency, we attach the details of the agreement as mandated by Judge Cleveland. If you are wondering what is different about this and the original story that was removed, it is that the settlement details were agreed, by the parties, to be confidential after the hearing we attended.
This situation raises poignant questions about the boundaries between the judiciary and the media, and the core values surrounding freedom of the press.
[Attachment: Details of the Confidential Settlement Agreement as ordered by Judge Cleveland]
Editorial Note: In reviewing the case document, portions of it are handwritten. The language contained in the document is as follows:
Nexus Services, Inc. and Mike Donovan retract the statement made to Breaking Through on July 18, 2023, and confirm ONLY that a confidential settlement was reached with David Zimmerman related to the alleged defamation suit filed by Nexus Services, Inc. against Mr. Zimmerman and any settlement amount is confidential. Mr. Zimmerman denies all liability related to this case. Nexus Services, Inc. and David Zimmerman agree to a mutual Non disparagement clause to this agreement. This mutual non-disparagement agreement shall apply to all statements, comments or communications made outside of any court. This agreement shall not restrict the parties from filing future litigation or making any statement in any pleading or court proceeding.