CHICAGO (CN) – The president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP failed to prove that a black female police officer libeled him in a tell-all book by implying that he sold her out when she turned to him to help fight racial discrimination in the department, the 7th Circuit ruled.
In late 2001, Renatta Frazier, an officer in the Springfield Police Department, was accused of failing to prevent a rape while on duty. She claimed the charges were not only false, but also racially motivated. She asked for help from the Black Guardians, an advocacy group for black officers, who directed her to Carl Madison, the local president of the NAACP chapter in Springfield.
After several discussions, Frazier and Madison failed to agree on the next course of action and parted ways. The charges against Frazier were eventually dropped.
In 2003, a year before she settled her claims against the city, Frazier began writing a book about her experience with the department. It was billed as the story of “one woman’s fight against the enemy of racial and gender discrimination in the system of a police department.”
Madison took issue with a few chapters of her book, including a chapter called “Integrity Is: Who You Are When No One’s Looking,” which allegedly asserts that Madison pressured her to sweep the incident under the rug and later dropped her case. She wrote: “‘Real men don’t lie,’ I thought. ‘Real men don’t sell out.'”
Judge Bauer found that the phrase “sell out” is merely an opinion that Madison betrayed his race. Also, as a public figure, Madison had the burden of proving actual malice, but failed to do so.
The 2-1 majority upheld summary judgment for Frazier, publisher Renatta’s Heart Inc. and co-author Kourtney Mitchell, who is also Frazier’s son.
Judge Wood dissented, saying Madison provided enough evidence of actual malice to survive summary judgment.