UPDATE:Judge dismisses intimidation claim in Bryant case

By HOLBROOK MOHR
The Associated Press

JACKSON – A federal judge has dismissed portions of a lawsuit in which a former Mississippi Air National Guard colonel claimed other officers retaliated against him for revealing corruption in his refueling unit.

Retired Col. Joe H. “Jody” Bryant Jr. claimed more than a dozen current and former members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian tried to intimidate him after he went public with concerns about racism, fraud and favoritism.

Bryant's claims and his willingness in the past to talk openly about the allegations, including in a radio interview, prompted lawsuits that have dragged through state and federal courts for years.

The latest ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Bryant in 2005, claiming members of the unit vandalized his cars, pilfered his computer bag and filed a slander lawsuit in retaliation.

The defendants denied the allegations.

One of the main issues in Bryant's lawsuit was whether the defendants violated the federal Whistleblower Protection Act by filing the slander lawsuit over comments Bryant made during a radio interview in 2003.

U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee ruled Monday that even if the motivation behind the slander lawsuit was retaliation against Bryant, the others had a First Amendment right to sue as long as their claims were not “objectively baseless.”

The slander lawsuit had already been thrown out of court.

One of Bryant's attorneys declined to comment Wednesday.