Corruption and Cover-ups: Heidi Campbell and Jason Monroe's Lawsuit Against Gannet (Newsleader)
Photo Credit: NBC29
Written by: Sam Orlando and Bonnie Chapman
Heidi Campbell and Jason Monroe have filed a lawsuit against Gannett Inc., the parent company of the News Leader, alleging that the news outlet operates as a marketing arm for the Augusta County Sheriff's Office. The suit claims the Sheriff's Office has engaged in multiple corrupt practices, including the mishandling of Campbell's rape case and covering up mortgage fraud involving Monroe. The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, in northern Virginia. This article will delve into the various sections of the lawsuit and provide insights into the allegations made by Campbell and Monroe.
Heidi Campbell Raped, Fights Back When Sheriff Protects Her Rapist
In 2006, Heidi Campbell was drugged and raped at Augusta Health. Despite the existence of a rape kit, DNA samples, and video surveillance, the Augusta County Sheriff's Office allegedly destroyed or mishandled crucial evidence. Campbell claims in her lawsuit that the Sheriff's Office not only failed to properly investigate her case but actively protected her rapist. According to the suit, Joey Good, a lead investigator with the Sheriff's Office, assured Campbell there was a "plethora" of DNA evidence, but later, then Deputy Donald Smith wrote a false report, suggesting that she was a willing participant. Campbell alleges the cover up was designed to protect the Hospital from negative publicity.
In an email interview, Campbell discussed the mishandling of her rape case and the humiliation she endured during the process. Campbell believes the corruption extends beyond the Sheriff's Office, implicating the hospital's CEO and her psychiatrist at the time.
Campbell told Breaking Through News, "The corruption isn't just at the ACSO; it goes so much further. The cover-up of my rape case was to prevent any bad publicity towards a newly built (only around 10 years old at the time) hospital. I had so much evidence… this could have hurt that hospital, and so between the CEO, the psychiatrist that was my doctor at the time, and the investigators… Yes, there are plenty to blame here. Sad thing is not one person stepped forward to stop this."
Campbell is determined to bring her case to court to expose the corruption within the Augusta County Sheriff's Office and the News Leader. She states, "Money never changes anything, I want this area to wake up and see what dirty deeds their tax dollars and donations go to."
Money is the Root of this Evil: Allegations of Mortgage and Bank Fraud
Jason Monroe alleges in the lawsuit that a Captain at the Sheriff's Office committed mortgage fraud using his name. He claims that Sheriff Donald Smith helped cover up this fraud, protecting the Captain and furthering the corruption within the Sheriff's Office. Monroe alleges that when he brought reports of the mortgage fraud to Sheriff Donald Smith's attention, that Sheriff Smith advised him that he should drop the matter, because it involved one of his officers.
Monroe has joined Campbell in the lawsuit against Gannett Inc., claiming the News Leader failed to report on these serious allegations and instead continued to operate as a PR arm for the Sheriff's Office.
Staunton Newsleader Provided Evidence, Lawsuit Alleges Editors Protected Sheriff Smith
Campbell and Monroe's lawsuit alleges that the News Leader has functioned as a marketing operation for the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, working to protect Sheriff Smith and his department from negative publicity. The suit claims that the News Leader's editorial team actively suppressed stories that could potentially harm the Sheriff's reputation, including Campbell's rape case and the mortgage fraud allegations involving Monroe.
A Reporter's Home is Searched, and the Plaintiffs' Stories Killed
According to the lawsuit, Ayano Nagaishi, a former reporter for the News Leader, had her apartment searched in the middle of the night by Augusta County deputies after she began to dig into the corruption allegations involving Sheriff Smith in the Summer of 2021. Nagaishi claims that the News Leader discouraged her from pursuing these stories and pressured her not to print the allegations. Nagaishi claims that the editor and the newspaper's Courts and Police reporter were angry that Nagaishi wrote an article exposing allegations that Sheriff Smith had lied about requesting body cameras to the Board of Supervisors. Nagaishi is quoted in the lawsuit as saying, "The News Leader didn't want to print stories that would make the Sheriff's Office look bad." Nagaishi said that she was chastised about reporting negatively about the Sheriff, and was told that good relationships with local law enforcement were critical to the paper.
Allegations of Sexual Assault Involving Law Enforcement in Augusta County
In addition to the other allegations, Ayano Nagaishi claims in a recorded phone call with Campbell, which is attached to the lawsuit, that she spoke with three minor victims who had made allegations of sexual assault against ACSO law enforcement officials. Breaking Through has reviewed the lawsuit and the audio recordings of Reporter Ayano Nagaishi. We continue to investigate these claims and refrain from repeating them in this article until the facts can be independently verified by Breaking Through staff. The allegations are shocking and, if true, represent a potential public safety crisis. The public is free to read the lawsuit, which can be found here. According to the lawsuit, Nagaishi reported these allegations to her superiors at the News Leader, but the editors chose not to pursue the story or print the accusations unless the victims would permit the paper to print their names, seemingly inconsistent with the paper's policy of not identifying juvenile sexual assault victims by name.
Even though the reporter claims that she had verified multiple aspects of the claims, she was blocked from reporting them unless she outed the victims by name in her story. Not surprisingly, the victims were afraid of what might happen to them if they were identified, and the story was killed. This further reinforces the plaintiffs' claims that the News Leader has been protecting the Sheriff's Office and suppressing stories that could damage its reputation.
Gannett Inc.'s Response:
When contacted for comment, Gannett Inc. responded, "We do not comment on ongoing litigation."
Breaking Through Continues to Investigate Nagaishi's Claims
Heidi Campbell and Jason Monroe's lawsuit against Gannett Inc. reveals a troubling pattern of alleged corruption, cover-ups, and media manipulation involving the Augusta County Sheriff's Office and the News Leader. As the case unfolds, the public will be watching closely to see if justice is finally served for Campbell, Monroe, and any other victims of the alleged misconduct within the Sheriff's Office and the News Leader.
Heidi Campbell and Jason Monroe's harrowing stories expose serious allegations of corruption and misconduct within the Augusta County Sheriff's Office and Gannett Inc's Staunton newspaper. Their lawsuit against Gannett Inc. aims to bring these issues to light, seeking justice for the alleged mishandling of the evidence provided to Gannett Inc.'s Reporter from Campbell's rape case and Monroe's mortgage fraud case. Their determination to pursue this matter in court, despite the many obstacles they have faced, is a testament to their courage and resilience. It remains to be seen how the legal battle will unfold, but one thing is certain: Campbell and Monroe are fighting not only for themselves but also for the countless others who may have been silenced or victimized by the corrupt system they are now challenging.
The allegations of sexual assault involving minors against law enforcement officials add another layer of concern, raising questions about the extent of the corruption and the role of the News Leader in enabling and covering up these alleged crimes. The facts alleged in the lawsuit, backed up by a recording in the former Newsleader Reporter's own words, demand a thorough investigation. That investigation must include an explanation as to why Augusta County deputies allegedly searched the home of a reporter who lived in the City of Staunton, outside of the County's jurisdiction. As disconcerting as the entirety of the allegations in the complaint are for Augusta County residents, the idea that police would use force to silence reporters should cause concern for all, and only through a comprehensive investigation into these serious allegations can the public's faith in law enforcement be restored.