(CN) - A highly decorated Navy SEAL claims in court the Washington Examiner newspaper defamed him by publishing his photograph to illustrate a story about another Navy SEAL charged with molesting children and creating child porn.
In a complaint filed in Palm Beach County on Feb. 28, Joseph Schmidt, a highly-decorated Navy SEAL who lives in California, says he was wrongly identified in an April 21, 2017, article as the Navy SEAL currently facing child molestation charges in Virginia.
Schmidt says he informed the newspaper of its error, but his requests for a retraction were ignored.
He says as a result of the newspaper's reckless actions, his reputation has been permanently damaged and he and his family still live in terror as a result.
In the complaint, which was filed by Jack Scarola of Searcy, Denny, Scarola, Barnhart and Shipley, Schmidt says his photo appeared beneath a large headline reading, "Navy SEAL Charged with making child porn” and that the accompanying article went on to “his phone had photos showing molestation of a sleeping prepubescent minor and a trove of other children in sex acts.”
Within minutes of the Examiner posting the story on its homepage multiple news agencies around the world reposted it using the image of Schmidt causing the article to go viral in news and social media outlets.
Schmidt says since the article was published and posted online, he has received numerous threats of violence and death threats, and been called many names on social media including “sicko” and “child sexual predator.”
Schmidt seeks compensation and punitive damages, a retraction and an apology from the newspaper.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.