TALLAHASSEE (CN) – A “fun center” claims WCTV Eyewitness News, local Channel 6, defamed it and drove it out of business with days of false reports that a child had been sexually assaulted inside the business.
Ollie Wallie’s Fun Center sued the Gray Television Group dba WCTV 6 aka WCTV Eyewitness News, reporters Jerry Askin and Candace Sweat, and station manager Triston Sanders, in Leon County Court.
Ollie Wallie’s claims the TV station broadcast its first false reports on the 6 and 11 p.m. news broadcasts on June 17, under banners stating: “Play Time Turns Into Crime Time,” “Crime at Local Fun Center,” “Assault at Ollie Wallie’s” and “Crime Scene.”
But the Fun Center says there was no such crime.
On June 16, Ollie Wallie’s says, “a patron of plaintiff complained to plaintiff’s management that she was unable to locate her child. Upon locating her child she claims that her child had been inappropriately touched by one of plaintiff’s employees.”
A report was made to Tallahassee Police, which investigated.
The next day, the complaint states, “as patrons approached plaintiff’s business, defendant Sweat confronted them in the parking lot just outside the entrance to plaintiff’s business, informed them that a child had been sexually assaulted inside, and asked them repeatedly how they felt about that, and if they felt their children would be safe.
“Patrons of plaintiff’s business confronted by defendant Sweat turned and left.”
WCTV reporter Askin continued to show up outside the business until June 21, and he also “confronted them in the parking lot just outside the entrance to plaintiff’s business, informed them that a crime had occurred involving a child inside plaintiff’s business, or informed them that a child had been sexually assaulted inside plaintiff’s business, and asked them repeatedly how they felt about that, and if they felt their children would be safe,” according to the complaint.
“In the days following the incident and through at least June 21, 2011, WCTV headline news broadcasts, online reports, online videos, and Facebook or Twitter posts of defendant Sanders and Askin, continued to state that a crime had occurred at plaintiff’s place of business, and contained banners reading ‘Crime Scene,’ ‘Assault,’ and ‘Assault on Minor.'”
The defendants also repeatedly broadcast statements “that the plaintiff would not comment on the statement or release a statement,” the complaint states.
It continues: “In WCTV news broadcasts on June 20, 2011, defendant Askin reported that ‘a sexual assault took place on Thursday at Ollie Wallie’s Fun Center.’ Said news broadcasts contained a banner reading ‘Sexual Assault’ with such banner juxtaposed with plaintiff’s registered logo.”
But Ollie Wallie’s says the police investigation “concluded that no crime or sexual assault had occurred at plaintiff’s business.”
The Fun Center says that conclusion came too late: “Following this event plaintiff experienced such a loss of business that it was forced to close its doors.”
Ollie Wallie’s seeks punitive damages for defamation and tortious interference with business relationship. It is represented by William Waters Jr.