Erica Almeciga’s April 23 complaint against the media organizations reads like every anonymous source’s nightmare.
Insisting that she lacks any affiliation with the Los Zetas drug cartel, Almeciga says since 2008 she has developed an “unlikely romance” with former Zeta enforcer Rosolio Reta, an inmate at Woodville Penitentiary in Texas.
Acting as Reta’s power of attorney, Almeciga says she fielded the requests he received for interviews, and agreed in 2012 to let the Center for Investigative Reporting interview her and Reta.
“The interviews of Reta and Ms. Almeciga, were expressly conditioned upon the [Almeciga]’s identity being concealed, similar to what [a different news outlet] had done a few months earlier,” the complaint filed in Manhattan Supreme Court states. “[The producers] agreed, and the parties proceeded accordingly.”
The center broadcast its report, which it called “I Was a Hitman for Miguel Trevino” on its YouTube channel, “I-Files,” sometime in late 2013, according to the complaint.
Almeciga says Univision broadcast the report as well on its YouTube channel around the same time.
“To Ms. Almeciga’s utter horror, the interview featured on both I-Files and Univision Noticias’ You Tube Channel left her identity completely exposed,” the complaint states.
When Almeciga learned about the broadcast on Dec. 12, 2013, the “I-Files” video already had more than 100,000 views, according to the complaint.
Almeciga says the Univision video’s views have climbed past 3 million.
Since the broadcast, “Ms. Almeciga has endured public humiliation, demeaning and often threatening remarks from the viewers, as well as the overwhelming fear that Los Zeta cartel, at any moment may take retribution against her,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit denounces the producers for making “absolutely zero effort” to conceal her identity.
“Los Zeta cartel is among the most brutal in all of Mexico, which logically applied, equates to being among the most violent in the world,” the complaint states. “The idea that Univision would agree to air the interview of Ms. Almeciga without concealing her identity, properly verifying her consent, or informing her in any way before airing was unconscionable.”
The CIR’s producers allegedly rejected cease-and-desist demands by sending Almeciga’s attorneys a waiver forging her signature.
Almeciga’s lawyers claim to be able to prove this with analysis by a handwriting expert.
Of the four hours of footage that the journalists have of Almeciga, she says they have broadcast only a few minutes to her knowledge. Those brief moments have nevertheless “managed to already destroy her life,” according to the complaint.
“Since 2013, Ms. Almeciga has been forced to move to different locations in an effort to avoid interaction with outsiders,” her lawsuit says. “She has developed paranoia and has been treated for depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (‘PTSD’), specifically, symptoms which contributed to extreme anxiety, lack of sleep, constant nightmares, hypersensitivity and so forth.”
Almeciga demands $500,000 for breach of contract, fraud and fraudulent concealment.
She is represented by attorney Kevin Landau of The Landau Group.
In addition to CIR and Univision, the complaint also names as defendants producers Bruce Livesley and Josiah Hooper.
CIR and Univision have not returned requests for comment.
In a footnote, the complaint notes that Almeciga’s “participation in the report was in relationship to Reta’s reformation while in prison and her observations as to how Reta’s life was affected by Los Zeta.”
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