CNN, CBS Settle Suit Over Mass Grave Report

     DALLAS (CN) – A couple has dropped defamation claims over incorrect CNN and CBS news reports that 25 to 30 dismembered bodies had been found in a mass grave at their home.
     In a June 2012 complaint, Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton claimed that Rhonda Gridley, a self-proclaimed psychic who called herself Angel, told the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office that their home was the site of a mass grave where 25 to 30 dismembered bodies had been buried,.
     Crediting Angel’s June 6, 2011, call, the sheriff’s department allegedly then provided Bankson and Charlton’s address to the news media and repeated her statement. The reports made nationwide and worldwide headlines, according to the complaint.
     Bankson and Charlton claimed that the sheriff’s office searched their home unreasonably and without probable cause, inviting the media along to watch the intrusive execution of the search warrant. They said the sheriff’s office had been “unreasonable in relying on an uncorroborated tip from a self-proclaimed psychic source” who has proven to be “unreliable and untrustworthy.”
     In addition to suing the sheriff’s office and Gridley, the couple also filed claims against The New York Times, Belo Corp., Thomson Reuters and ABC News. They said the media defendants failed to make reasonable inquiries into the truthfulness of the statements they published, and failed to take reasonable precautions so that the false statements would not injure the plaintiffs’ reputations.
     The couple filed two agreed motions of dismissal with prejudice on April 2. Judge Carl Ginsberg signed both on the same day.
     The orders dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims against CNN’s parent Cable News Network Inc. and Houston CBS affiliate KHOU-TV. The parties agree to pay their own incurred court costs.
     Liberty County is about 50 miles northeast of Houston. Its county seat is Liberty.

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