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Commissioner files libel suit
Issue involves online posting
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Forsyth County News

A Forsyth County commissioner is seeking damages in a libel suit against a resident of his district.

Commissioner Patrick Bell filed a lawsuit in Forsyth County Superior Court against Charles B. Purcell of Hopewell Road, referencing a comment posted July 21 on a news Web site.

According to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 20, the online post “by innuendo accused [p]laintiff Bell of being a pedophile and was intentionally false, libelous and defamatory about [p]laintiff. Defendant intended for that statement to be read by members of the public, which did occur.”

A user named “charlesbpurcell” posted the comment, which appeared on

In the post, the commenter noted that another poster perceived as supporting Bell had the same name as someone on a National Sex Offender Web site. He then asked if the support for Bell was related to the commissioner’s involvement in scouting.

The comment was posted as commentary on a story regarding the campaign of Cindy J. Mills, who defeated Bell for the District 4 commission seat in this year’s election.

Bell is seeking $100,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages, or an amount as determined by a jury, according to the lawsuit.

Purcell was served with the lawsuit earlier this week and has until Jan. 3 to respond.

He did not return an e-mail request for comment.

Reached by phone Friday, Bell said he had warned “local activists” that he would not tolerate personal attacks on himself or his family.

Bell’s attorney, Myles Eastwood, had sent a letter to Purcell by certified mail demanding retraction of the comment Aug. 16.

The letter was not claimed after three attempts, according to the complaint.

Bell said “this is not the last” suit that could be filed.

“In this particular instance, it accuses me of something that bad relating to something, like scouting, which is one of the most important things my family has done,” he said. “I’m just not going to accept it.”

His attorney, Eastwood, did not return a call seeking comment.

Eastwood lists on his professional Web site that his office “took an Internet libel case to trial and won the first contested plaintiff’s verdict nationally against a blogger.”

In that case, decided in 2006, he represented attorney Rafe Banks in a libel suit against Forsyth County blogger David Milum.