Sunday, September 24, 2023
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Inmate Loses Libel Claim Against News Stations

HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) - An inmate serving a 45-year sentence for felony murder cannot sue two local television stations for allegedly libeling him in a story about Gov. M. Jodi Rell's decision to halt the use of Medicaid money on Viagra for sex offenders, the Connecticut Court of Appeals ruled.

Eugene C. Mercer sued the state in Superior Court, seeking treatment for AIDS-related symptoms. He said the state discriminated against him by denying him testosterone gel "for the treatment of HIV-hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction."

Mercer claimed WTIC FOX-61, WVIT NBC-30 and their reporters libeled and defamed him by using his case as an example of an inmate who's suing the state department of correction for Viagra, for treatment of erectile dysfunction.

He also claimed they disclosed confidential information about his HIV and used his photograph on the television broadcasts and the Internet.

Mercer said the exposure led to "intimidation and threat of physical harm by inmates ... who perceive the plaintiff as a sex offender and/or homosexual willing to infect other prisoners with HIV by engaging in sexual activities with the aid of Viagra, as well as harassment and intimidation of correctional officers."

The plaintiff stressed that he is not a registered sex offender and has never sued the state for Viagra.

The news stations successfully moved for summary judgment based on two special defenses: substantial truth and the fair reporting privilege.

Judge Flynn rejected Mercer's claim of judicial bias and concluded that FOX-61 had reported the truth, while NBC-30's report was "substantially true."

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