Judge Hits Virginia Paper With $5 Million Suit

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(AP) Former Newport News Circuit Court Judge Verbena Askew has filed suits against both the Daily Press in Newport News and the woman who accused her of sexual harassment in 1999.

In her suits filed last week, Askew seeks $5 million from the newspaperand $1 million from former Newport News drug court employee Brenda Collins, claiming both violated confidentiality agreements. Askew’s claims are in response to a lawsuit filed last year by Collins, claiming Askew breached a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement of her harassment complaint against the judge.

In her countersuit, Askew contends that Collins breached confidentiality herself by providing information about the settlement to the General Assembly.

In her suit against the newspaper, Askew claims that editors Ernie Gates and Bob Evans and reporter Terry Scanlon used information in a story that Askew says she provided in confidence.

These legal battles come more than two years after the General Assembly took away Askew’s judgeship. She was the first black woman appointed as a circuit judge in Virginia, but was denied a second eight-year term.

“We’re confident in our position, but we don’t comment on pending lawsuits,” said Lisa B. Bohnaker, vice president and director of marketing for the Daily Press.

Collins could not be reached for comment. Askew declined any further comment.

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