Awarded 500k she would give it back to escape agony, woman claims
A jury on Tuesday ordered that she receive those damages from her former boss who, according to two juries, falsely accused Gayla White of embezzlement.
DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Gayla White said she would gladly give up the half million dollars a jury awarded her if she could escape agony she suffered the past five years.
A jury on Tuesday ordered that she receive those damages from her former boss who, according to two juries, falsely accused White of embezzlement.
“My whole goal was to try and get something back of myself,” White told News 4 of why she filed the lawsuit against Windmill Station owner Eddie Donaldson.
Donaldson accused her of pocketing $5,700 in cash payments from soon-to-be brides who chose Windmill for their wedding receptions.
White, an engaged community member and public servant, was arrested amid disgrace, and her booking photo repeatedly regurgitated in newspapers and on television news broadcasts.
She lost her City of Dothan Planning Commissioner position and resigned from the Wiregrass 211 board of directors.
But perhaps most stinging was her dismissal from the new job she had gotten after leaving Donaldson on not-so-good terms.
COVID slowed her trek to trial, but the publicity never slowed.
Following years of delays, White finally stood trial in 2021′s summer, and after hearing days of testimony, jurors found her not guilty on all charges.
White said she owed it to herself and others in similar situations to hold Donaldson accountable.
So, she filed a long shot civil lawsuit, alleging he knowingly assassinated her character.
“It’s tough (to win those cases), and that’s what everybody said,” she recalls.
But, on Tuesday, a jury—not the one that cleared her---awarded Gayla White $500,000.
“Before you call somebody a thief, you need to do your homework,” said Steve McGowan, the attorney who represented White in her civil action.
Like White, he admits confidence of victory wasn’t high and credits the jury who McGowan said listened intently to testimony and understood the case law before deliberating for about an hour.
“The verdict I think, was fair, and that’s something that Gayla will be able to look at to get her life moving,” he said.
But the fact of the matter is White has a $500k jury award but no money—not yet anyway.
Donaldson will likely appeal, though his attorneys have not commented on their plans.
Gayla White claims she sued more for redemption than for money, claiming the most challenging part of the ordeal is the impact the criminal charges had on her family.
“I have children---a son and daughter---and I have grandchildren,” she claims were humiliated because of false allegations.
McGowan said the matter can summed up in a few words---justice has been served.
Ken Curtis is a court and investigative reporter whose broadcast career began in 1969. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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