WASHINGTON, May 16, 2014 – Lawyers involved in former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod’s defamation lawsuit against the late blogger Andrew Breitbart say they have subpoenaed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the case, according to the Associated Press.

Sherrod was forced to resign from USDA in 2010 after Breitbart posted an edited video of Sherrod, who is black, making what appeared at first to be racist remarks to an NAACP group. Her words were later shown to have been taken out of context and were really an attempt at racial reconciliation.

Sherrod who had been USDA’s state director for Rural Development in Georgia, sued Breitbart, his colleague Larry O’Connor and an unnamed defendant in 2011 for defamation and emotional distress.

According to the AP, lawyers for Sherrod and O’Connor said they subpoenaed Vilsack for deposition earlier this week. In a hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leo said Vilsack’s testimony could speed up the conclusion of the case. The agriculture secretary has said he alone made the decision to seek Sherrod’s resignation.

Vilsack’s office would not confirm the subpoena, referring questions to the Justice Department, which did not immediately respond.

When Sherrod’s full speech to the NAACP group came to light, Sherrod received apologies from President Barack Obama and was offered a job at USDA, which she turned down.

Sherrod says in her lawsuit that her integrity and impartiality were brought into question by Breitbart’s actions, “making it difficult (if not impossible) for her to continue her life’s work assisting poor farmers in rural areas.”

The bloggers’ attorneys say the blog was opinion and did not defame Sherrod, according to the AP. Breitbart died unexpectedly in 2012 but his wife Susannah has been substituted as a defendant.


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