BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – An Alabama woman claims in court that local news outlets incorrectly identified her and her minor relative as being involved in a human trafficking and sexual assault case by publishing photos of them instead of the suspect.
Melissa Daw Preuss, 19, and her 14-year-old relative sued Central Alabama Media Group, Raycom Media and WVTM Hearst Television in Jefferson County Circuit Court on Tuesday. CAMG owns AL.com, Raycom owns Fox-affiliate WBRC and WVMT operates an NBC affiliate.
Preuss says that her sister, Amy Floyd Morgan, was the person arrested in January and charged with human trafficking and conspiring to commit sexual abuse of a child younger than 12. Morgan is accused of taking money for over a year from a man to have sex with her daughter.
“After Morgan was arrested, defendant AL.com – without permission and without fact checking – negligently and wrongfully imputed Morgan’s indictable criminal charges to Preuss by publishing the photographs and likeness of Preuss and the minor child as Morgan and the child who was involved in the human trafficking charges on its website and Facebook page,” the nine-page complaint states.
Preuss claims the two television stations “published a false statement of fact” when they posted photographs of the plaintiffs as Morgan and the alleged minor victim.
“After the negligent images and likeness of Preuss and the minor child were publicized, Preuss was forced to pull the minor child out of school to protect her from finding out that her likeness was used in the human trafficking story,” the complaint states.
Preuss says she later contacted the defendants to remove the photographs from the story.
“However, they failed to publicly retract and/or correct the public by publishing that their stories were in error and that the plaintiffs’ photographs used in the stories were not those of Morgan and the minor child but of Morgan’s biological sister,” the complaint states.
AL.com did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Wednesday morning.
Preuss seeks actual and punitive damages for invasion of privacy, defamation, libel and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She is represented by Charles E. Robinson and Meg W. Clements in Ashville, Ala.