Lisa Daniels, the Democratic candidate for the Seventh Legislative District, said she filed on Monday a $100 million defamation and libel lawsuit against her opponent Howard Kopel and several others over a mailer that alleges her actions led to a child’s death.
The mailer, sent out by an anonymous source, alleges Daniels has “poor judgment” for fighting, and winning, for a mother’s custody of a 2-year-old boy for whom she had been appointed legal guardian. The decision was upheld on appeal. The boy, Charles Jonathan "C.J." Gooch, died in February after suffering a massive head injury.
“The decision to publish such outrageous lies for political gain represents an all-time low in a season of scorched earth campaign tactics used by the GOP in Nassau County,” said a statement from Daniels’ campaign. “To lose a child is unfathomable. To exploit the death of a child for political gain (like the Nassau County GOP has done here) is morally and ethically reprehensible. As such, Ms. Daniels calls on Howard Kopel to publicly denounce the false and libelous statements recently published in support of his campaign.”
C.J.’s mother, Casina, said the boy fell from a bunk bed. Gooch’s friend, Bradley Ballard, who was watching the boy at the time, has been charged in Cobb County Court with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree cruelty to children and reckless conduct, after he allegedly failed to seek medical attention for C.J. and instead put the boy to sleep in his bed, according to an indictment.
However, court papers also say C.J.’s injuries are inconsistent with a fall, and allege Ballard may have beat the boy to death, Newsday reported.
In a statement, Gooch defends Daniels.
“It disgusts me that anyone would use the death of my son for political gain and I cannot believe that my son’s memory and my care of him as his mother has been marred by Ms. Daniels’ opponent,” she said. “I have lost my son and I will live with that every day of my life. It wasn’t necessary for them to smear his memory to win an election.”
Daniels’ suit was filed against Kopel, Kopel for Legislature, Robert Tice as Treasurer of Howard Kopel for Legislature, Challenge Graphics Services, Inc., CCC Consulting Group, LLC, Anthony Brancato, Nassau County Republican Committee and East Rockaway Republican Committee.
The suit seeks retraction and $100 million in damages.
Neither Kopel nor his campaign could be reached for comment by press time.
Meanwhile, Kopel’s campaign last week attacked Daniels for accepting a $5,000 contribution from her 11-year-old son. It also alleges that after being pointed out by the state board of elections, a $10,000 contribution — four times the max allowed for a legislative candidate — from an Atlantic Beach resident was claimed to be a loan.
Daniels said in a statement that she is “happy to enjoy the emotional support from my children in this campaign.”