Todd Chrisley is ordered to pay Georgia investigator $755,000 in defamation lawsuit loss

Imprisoned reality TV star Todd Chrisley is facing even more legal and financial woes.

Last week, a federal jury found that the real estate tycoon, known for the USA Network series “Chrisley Knows Best,” defamed an investigator from the Georgia Department of Revenue. A Georgia judge decided Thursday that Chrisley, who is currently serving a years-long sentence in federal prison for bank fraud and tax evasion, must pay Amy Doherty-Heinze $755,000 in compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees, according to legal documents reviewed by The Times.

Doherty-Heinze sued Chrisley on July 9, 2021, alleging he accused her of “a multitude of crimes and wrongdoing” starting in 2020, legal documents say. The defamation suit also alleged Chrisley, 55, “repeated false accusations that, among other things, [Doherty-Heinze] engaged in various criminal misconduct in her post as an investigator for the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Office of Special Investigations.” Two months after the lawsuit came down, Chrisley tried to get the case thrown out, but Doherty-Heinze alleged that the TV star continued to “defame” her in a September 2021 episode of his and wife Julie’s “Chrisley Confessions” podcast.

According to the investigator’s suit, Chrisley names Doherty-Heinze in his podcast and accuses her of corruption and of “illegally accessing” a government program to pull information on the reality TV family, including his wife and their children, Chase and Savannah.

Doherty-Heinze filed her lawsuit four years after the Georgia Department of Revenue began investigating Todd and Julie Chrisley in 2017, the lawsuit said.

Her suit alleged that Chrisley started a “social media campaign against the GDOR and certain of its employees, contending that the investigation was illegal and improperly motivated.” Amid the lawsuit, Doherty-Heinze’s attorneys demanded in September 2022 that Chrisley retract the alleged defamatory statements from the September 2021 podcast episode.

In response to Thursday’s ruling, Chrisley’s attorney Leesa Guarnotta said in a statement to The Times the star’s team was “pleased the jury recognized that some of Mr. Chrisley’s statements were not defamatory and awarded the plaintiff a fourth of the damages she requested.”

“We are concerned about the state of the First Amendment where such a case could make it to trial in the first place,” the statement added. “We are optimistic about our appeal.”

A legal representative for Doherty-Heinze did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.

The “Chrisley Knows Best” patriarch and Julie Chrisley were convicted in June 2022 of federal charges including tax evasion and bank fraud, disrupting their reality TV empire and family dynamics. The spouses began their prison sentences in January 2023.

Todd Chrisley was sentenced to 12 years in Florida’s Federal Prison Camp Pensacola and Julie seven years at Kentucky’s Federal Medical Center in Lexington. Last year, both received minor reductions in their sentences: Todd is set to be released two years earlier than originally scheduled, and Julie 14 months.

Times researcher Scott Wilson contributed to this report.

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