Dinning and Pure Africa versus Granville Batte et al. as published in “Inside Business” Magazine

Lawyer sues investors and their attorneys

Posted: March 9, 2012

By Mary Flachsenhaar

mary.flachsenhaar@insidebiz.com

“Attorney Brian Ray Dinning, a former Suffolk resident who has been sued numerous times by investors in his nonprofits, has responded by filing a complex civil case in Suffolk Circuit Court that names 10 defendants.

Among the charges listed by Dinning, who represents himself in the case, are defamation, libel, slander, as well as interference with business relationships and statutory business conspiracy that have injured Dinning’s business, professional reputation and future employment opportunities, according to the suit filed on Feb. 22.

The defendants include six individuals, from Hampton Roads and elsewhere, who have previously sued Dinning in an attempt to recoup money they invested in his nonprofit organizations; two attorneys who’ve represented some of those investors; and two residents of South Africa, the country where Dinning has been involved in work with the indigenous population and attempted development projects during the last 10 years.

In addition to Dinning, Pure Africa LLC, one of the many companies he created, is named as a plaintiff.

Dinning, whose most recent residence was in Somerset County, Pa., although it’s unclear where he lives now, declined by email to be interviewed for this story because of pending litigation.

In February, he appealed a May 2010 jury verdict in Norfolk Circuit Court that ordered him to pay more than $722,000 to a Pennsylvania couple who invested in his South African projects. Danny and Debra Murrill of Mechanicsburg, Pa., had sued Dinning on charges of fraud and breach of contract. The Murrills are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in Suffolk by Dinning.

Dinning charges in the suit that, beginning in 2007, the 10 defendants and others began to conspire and enact an aggressive negative press campaign against Dinning and Pure Africa. The campaign extended to stories that appeared in Inside Business.

“Negative, false and libelous articles were published about Dinning through the concerted, planned and combined efforts of the defendants,” Dinning wrote in the suit.

Inside Business has published numerous stores about Dinning since November 2006.

Additionally, the lawsuit states that seven of the defendants “recklessly and maliciously filed frivolous complaints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal and state agencies including South African government agencies alleging that Dinning’s projects in South Africa do not exist and accusing Dinning of perpetrating numerous frauds against the Murrills and others.”

According to the lawsuit, Dinning has suffered physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially as a result of the negative actions of the defendants. The suit goes on to say his personal and professional reputation have been harmed; he has lost investors and donors; and his personal, family and church relationships have been damaged.

On all counts combined, Dinning seeks a total award of more than $30 million, punitive damages of nearly $2.5 million, plus interest, attorney fees and costs.

Several defendants contacted by phone or email either did not respond or declined to comment because they’d not yet seen the lawsuit.

In addition to the Murrills, the defendants include Jason Roper, the attorney who represented the Murrills in their case against Dinning; Allan and Maureen Stiner of Norfolk, whose lawsuit against Dinning was settled out of court; George Bowles of Williams Mullen, the Stiners’ attorney in the case; Steve P. Geller of Suffolk, who advised Dinning about building a golf course in South Africa; W. Granville Batte, formerly of Virginia Beach, who was involved in a suit against Dinning that was settled out of court; and Bossie Bosman and Jeff Brown, both of South Africa. Bosman at one time worked with Dinning on some of his projects. Brown writes a blog about South Africa’s Wild Coast, the site of some of Dinning’s proposed developments.

Jason Roper, who had a law practice in Virginia Beach until last year, now practices law in Pittsburgh with the firm of Blumling & Gusky. As a result of complaints brought against him by Dinning and Norfolk attorney Duncan Byers, who has represented Dinning in the past, Roper was suspended from practicing law in Virginia for three years. The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board cited misconduct and fairness to opposing party or counsel, among other violations. Roper said in an email he plans to appeal the suspension.”

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