COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CN) – Long after a Colorado high school student was murdered, the Discovery Channel defamed a witness to it as “a menacing, weed-smoking bully,” who was the “instigator” of the killing, the man claims in court.
Moses Cooley claims that he was defamed in an episode of “Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda,” which in broadcast on Investigation Discovery, a spinoff of the Discovery Channel.
Cooley sued Discovery Communications and retired Det. Joe P. Kenda, who hosts the show, in El Paso County Court. He also sued Jupiter Entertainment, a producer of the show.
Cooley, who was 16 at the time of the killing in 1995, claims the defendants defamed him to juice up their show.
“On or about November 20, 2012, Discovery Channel in conjunction with Jupiter Entertainment produced and aired a television show by the name of ‘Homicide Hunter Lt. Joe Kenda Homicide Hunter’ [sic],” the complaint states.
“One such episode named ‘Primal Fear’ depicts a reenactment of a 1995 homicide that took place in Colorado Springs, Colo. near the campus of Sierra High School.
“In such episode Mr. Moses Cooley is depicted as a bully that is preying upon another student within Sierra High School.
“The episode depicts Mr. Moses Cooley, who was a victim in this horrific crime, as the initiator of the events that triggered the shooting that resulted in James Jackson being killed.
“Mr. Moses Cooley avers that such reenactment and the statements and depictions within the reenactment are false and defamatory.
“Mr. Moses Cooley avers that such reenactment and the statements and depictions within the reenactment are and are [sic] unsubstantiated by facts and evidence. A side by side review of the episode against the police report shows gross negligence in the depictions of the facts.”
Cooley claims in the lawsuit that he had never even been inside Sierra High, though the documentary depicts him threatening students and getting in a fight in the lunchroom.
“Mr. Cooley never entered or left the building of Sierra High School with his usual crew and friends; this was impossible for him to leave the school when he was not a student,” the complaint states.
He acknowledged that he visited the school on the day of the murder.
“Mr. Cooley drove through the parking lot of Sierra High School on the afternoon of November 9, 1995. As he was passing through the parking lot, he noticed the victim on the corner surrounded by several young men.
“Mr. Cooley allowed the victim to enter his car and began to proceed away from the school to take the victim home,” the complaint states.
It adds: “The incident at the school was never a bullying problem, but a gang problem, as listed several times within the police report.
“Mr. Cooley was attempting to defuse a situation and was swept into a nightmare within minutes of attempting to lend a helping hand. …
“Defendants infer that Mr. Cooley was bullying the shooter’s brother within the episode.
“Mr. Cooley had never encountered the shooter or any member of his family prior to the first gunshots ringing out.
“Mr. Cooley has been inferred as the cause for the death of James Jackson.
“Mr. Cooley was a victim, being shot at as he attempted to transport Mr. Jackson home on the date of the incident.
“The video was produced in a negligent manner and failed to highlight the fact that incidents leading up to the death of James Jackson were gang affiliated.”
According to the lawsuit, another man was convicted of murdering Jackson, but that didn’t stop the producers from pointing the finger at Cooley.
“Defendants chose to sensationalize this solved case with the depiction of Mr. Moses Cooley as a menacing, weed-smoking bully, instigator and impetus of this murder,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Cooley is devastated by the use of his name, the invasion of his privacy, and the depiction of his character. He is in imminent fear of retaliation based on the use of his name and the depiction of events.”
Cooley seeks damages for defamation, defamation per se, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and invasion of privacy.
He is represented by Steven Hill with Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis in Denver.
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