Daily News Assailed on Slain Infant Reporting


     MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York Daily News had no basis to implicate a New York hotel in the discovery of a strangled infant’s remains, the business claims in court.
     A family-owned hotel in northern Westchester, Heidi’s concedes from the start of its 28-page lawsuit that the couple charged with killing 2-month-old Mason Whyte on Dec. 10, 2015, stayed at its Brewster, N.Y., inn that night.
     Police discovered Whyte’s body in Dover, however, over a week later on Dec. 19, according to the complaint Heidi’s filed Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
     Though Dover is 22 miles away from Heidi’s in Dutchess County, Heidi’s says the Daily News nevertheless reported that the baby was found “near” its property.
     Published in print and online, the article includes photographs of Heidi’s signage. “Police discovered the body of a 2-month-old boy near Heidi’s Inn in Brewster,” a caption states, as quoted in the complaint, which includes copies of various articles as court exhibits.
     “An average reader would understand from the story that the body of the baby was dumped on the hotel grounds and the body of the baby was found on the hotel grounds,” Heidi’s says. “The allegation is false.”
     Accusing the tabloid of being “grossly reckless,” Heidi’s says it “went as far as strongly implying that the remains were found on the hotel property.”
     The Daily News “acted in a grossly irresponsible manner without due consideration for the standards of information gathering and dissemination ordinarily followed by responsible parties,” the complaint continues.
     Heidi’s named the Putnam County Courier, one of more than 100 other media outlets to pick up the story, as a co-defendant to the lawsuit.
     “At best, they [the newspapers] were grossly negligent and at worst they had intentional or reckless disregard of plaintiff’s rights,” according to the complaint.
     “They falsely depicted the hotel grounds as the child’s final resting grounds, even though there was significant information that would make even the most amateur reporter aware of the location where the police search ended,” the lawsuit continues.
     Heidi’s notes that neither news outlet ever printed a retraction, and that its business has suffered.
     “In today’s day and age, a significant number of people use the Internet to look up a hotel prior to booking,” the complaint states. “The appearance of the article decreases the likelihood of individuals wanting to stay” at the motel.
     A spokeswoman with the Daily News did not respond to a request for comment Monday morning. Hotel representatives declined to comment.
     Seeking damages for libel, the hotel is represented by Daniel Szalkiewicz.
     News reports say police arrested 51-year-old Jose Feliciano and charged him with second-degree murder on Dec. 19 after Danielle Whyte led them to her baby’s remains.
     Whyte, 31, was charged in January with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
     Heidi’s says “Feliciano choked and smothered his newborn baby after the baby would not stop crying,” the complaint states
     After “Feliciano was seen on surveillance video carrying a small duffel bag to a car” on Dec. 10, he and Whyte drove to Heidi’s and stayed the night, the complaint continues.
     Heidi’s says the Bronx couple drove another 22 miles the woods in Dover on Dec. 12 for the makeshift burial.

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