John Stokes, owner of Kalispell radio station KGEZ and host of The Edge, has landed himself in yet another court case. This time, one of his targets has fired back at him.
“At some point you’ve got to stand up and say, ‘That’s enough,’” says Trent Gardner, who represents his father, Davar Gardner, and his brother, Todd Gardner, in a defamation suit against Stokes.
Stokes, according to the suit, has stated on the air that the Gardners have lied on the witness stand in district court, have submitted false affidavits to the court, and have committed bank fraud.
For years, Gardner says, his family “kind of brushed it aside.”
He says they hoped Stokes would leave them alone after resolving a lawsuit this summer involving an easement allowing KGEZ’s towers to stand on land the Gardners own.
“Instead of slowing down or stopping, he ramped up his attacks,” says Gardner.
In a brief interview with the Independent, Stokes said, “The truth is not slanderous or defamatory. It’s the truth.”
Stokes’ Nov. 12 reply to the lawsuit doesn’t deny he made accusations against the Gardners, but maintains he told the truth, an absolute defense against defamation.
His reply does not point to a specific instance in which the Gardners lied under oath or submitted false affidavits, but says they have a “habit” of doing so. He does, however, specifically accuse the Gardners of taking out a residential loan to build a commercial development, which he characterizes as bank fraud.
Stokes talked about his allegations of bank fraud on his radio show Nov. 13. “It says, right on the document, and I’m not making this up, ‘This loan is for residential purposes only. If things change you must notify the bank.’ Well they didn’t.”
But Trent Gardner says Stokes is intentionally mis-reading documents in order to make a point with his audience.
“Mr. Stokes, he’s got a history of abusing people and bullying people on the air, and I just don’t think he thought anyone would actually call him on it,” Gardner says, adding that he hopes to get a court hearing soon.