A retired Army colonel who sued a former West Point classmate for defamation related to blogged accusations of rape has won a multi-million dollar decision in a Virginia court. Wil Riggins, a decorated veteran from Alexandria, claimed the online accusations from a woman named Susan Shannon cost him a military promotion. On Tuesday a jury agreed, awarding Riggins $3.4 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The case was unique in that Shannon's accusations of rape came nearly 30 years after the alleged assault.
In 2013, Shannon blogged accusations claiming Riggins had raped her in 1986, while the two were classmates at West Point. Riggins denied the claim and sought damages after he was denied a promotion that documents showed he was fully qualified to receive. WJLA first reported the lawsuit in 2015, exclusively speaking with both Riggins and Shannon, who said she blogged about the incident in part to stop blaming herself. The jury in the Virginia case found Shannon's statements were false and defamatory.
Circa contacted attorneys for both Riggins and Shannon seeking comment about the court decision. Shannon's attorney opted not to comment. Riggins' attorney, Stephen Horvath, told Circa, "Colonel Riggins is pleased that the jury found that the statements made by Susan Shannon were lies, and appreciates the recognition by the jury in it’s verdict that the defamatory statements destroyed his career and opportunity to be promoted to Brigadier General."
There is a post-trial motion from Shannon's team to set aside the verdict. We're told that will be heard later this month.