(CN) – CBS is facing a $750 million defamation lawsuit from the brother of JonBenet Ramsey, who claims the network aired a documentary that unfairly portrayed him as the culprit in his sister’s infamous murder.
Burke Ramsey filed the lawsuit in Wayne County, Mich., Circuit Court on Wednesday, claiming his reputation was permanently damaged by the airing of “The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey,” about the young beauty queen’s unsolved 1996 murder in Boulder, Colo.
CBS aired the two-part documentary miniseries on Sept. 18-19 of this year. According to the lawsuit, 10.4 million viewers saw the first episode, while 8.24 million tuned in for the conclusion.
Ramsey, a software engineer who lives in Charlevoix, Mich., alleges CBS promoted the show as “a complete reinvestigation starting right from scratch” by a team of seven world-renowned investigators.
These investigators – Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, James R. Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner U. Spitz, Henry C. Lee and A. James Kolar – are all defendants in the defamation and conspiracy lawsuit, which seeks $250 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages.
Ramsey labeled both Spitz and Lee as “a well-known television talking head who frequently interjects himself into high-profile cases for publicity and profit.”
In fact, Ramsey sued Spitz for defamation in October after Spitz fingered Ramsey as the killer in a radio interview that aired between the two parts of the CBS telecast.
Ramsey claims the “gist” of the CBS show was that 9-year-old Ramsey killed his 6-year-old sister JonBenet in 1996.
“Burke Ramsey did not kill his sister and had no involvement in her brutal murder,” his lawsuit states.
He added that law enforcement officials have “repeatedly, publicly and unequivocally” cleared him of any involvement in the killing “as far back as 1998.”
Ramsey called the TV show “a fraud on the public” based on a preconceived storyline from Kolar’s 2012 book, “Foreign Faction.” He called the book “a miserable failure” and says he was “shocked” when he heard rumors that CBS was planning a documentary based on it.
Another defendant, Critical Content LLC, produced the documentary. Ramsey claims CBS used the outside entity after abounding its plans to produce the miniseries through its highly respected show “48 Hours.”
“CBS decided to work with an outside production company because CBS knew that the documentary’s preconceived conclusion – that Burke killed JonBenet – would not pass CBS’s stringent broadcast review standards,” the complaint states.
Ramsey claims promotion of the show spread the word of his alleged guilt.
“The media, in headline after headline, article after article, and social media post after social media post shouted: CBS says Burke killed JonBenet,” according to the lawsuit.
“Defendants’ accusation that Burke Ramsey killed his sister was based on a compilation of lies, half-truths, manufactured information, and the intentional omission and avoidance of truthful information about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey,” the complaint states.
According to Ramsey, the “pseudo-experts” also falsely stated that Patsy Ramsey, the mother of Burke and JonBenet, wrote the ransom note that was found at the crime scene to cover for Burke.
The documentary allegedly included a “disgusting staged demonstration” during which Spitz “commands a 10-year-old boy to, in effect, pretend he is bludgeoning JonBenet to death by using a flashlight to strike a pig skin skull covered with a blonde wig.” The demonstration was based on Kolar’s theory that Ramsey hit his sister with a flashlight out of anger, the complaint states.
In addition, Ramsey claims, the investigators misrepresented interviews with his parents, falsely discredited the theory that an outside intruder killed JonBenet, and falsely stated that the girl was not sexually assaulted.
CBS declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Ramsey is represented by attorneys John Lesko of Plymouth, Mich., and L. Lin Wood in Atlanta.
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