(CN) – A&E TV’s “Female Forces” and Naperville, Ill., police humiliated and violated the civil rights of a man the officers stopped on charge of driving on a suspended license, and profited from his persona by showing him on the “reality” show without his permission, the man claims in Chicago Federal Court.
Matt Coan claims he refused to sign a release, but the TV showed him anyway on its “Betsy Warrior Princess” episode.
Coan claims that the female officers featured on the show ridiculed him when he became ill and threw up in their custody, and that post-vomiting footage was edited, staged and sensationalized to further demean him.
“Female Forces,” produced by defendants A Day With Inc. and Good Luck Nat dba The Grief Co., for A&E Television Networks, purports to tell the stories of female officers from the Naperville Police Department, “as they fight a full gamut of big city crime in the suburbs of Chicago,” the complaint states, citing a Biography Channel promo.
A&E owns the Biography Channel. The show’s tagline is “Brains, Beauty and a Badge.”
Coan, a construction contractor, says he was pulled over for driving with a suspended license on April 4, 2008, plaintiff. As defendant Officer Tracy Nance took his license, the TV crew pulled up and began shooting.
Coan claims that Officer Nance stalled, holding him longer than necessary so that defendant Officer Julie Lardino could arrive with another film crew. He says an unknown individual repeatedly asked him to sign a consent form permitting his name, image, voice and likeness to be used on the program. Coan says he refused.
Nonetheless, Coan says, he was prominently featured in the televised episode, and was shown vomiting out his truck door as police arrive.
Nance is heard asking, “Why you throwing up like that, dude?” before asking for Coan’s license and insurance. She asked whether he “forgot to pay some tickets, because that is what it looks like you’re suspended for.”
After Lardino arrived, the two officers mocked and demeaned him, Coan claims.
Nance says that Coan’s license is suspended and that he’s “really sick.”
“Write him a ticket and get him out of here,” Lardino said.
Lardino then approached the passenger side of the vehicle. On the program, Coan is shown coughing in his front seat, and Lardino is shown backing away from the car, presumably to avoid being thrown up on. However, at the time, the passenger side door and window were closed, and the footage was edited to “humiliate and embarrass him,” Coan says.
At the end of the traffic stop, Nance is shown at the rear of her squad car wiping her hands and pen with a disinfectant wipe, while saying, “Clean my pen too. He used my pen to sign the ticket.”
The segment ends with a sarcastic comment by Nance, “Another happy, sunny day in Naperville,” according to the complaint.
Coan said he found out about the broadcast through phone calls from friends. The program has been rebroadcast several times and is the most-downloaded episode of the show on iTunes, according to the complaint.
Coan seeks compensatory and punitive damages and court costs, for civil rights violations, violation of his right of publicity, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
He is represented by Mark Mathys with Mathys & Schneid in Naperville.