(CN) – A man targeted in an episode of NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” can proceed with a lawsuit against the network, a federal judge ruled.
Anurag Tiwari was busted by the show in 2006 after coming to a home with the intention of meeting a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet. The “girl” was actually an adult decoy used by the show to lure child predators in and around the town of Petaluma, Calif., north of San Francisco.
Tiwari filed suit against NBC Universal, claiming the network violated his Fourth Amendment rights through actions amounting “to a seizure that intruded on his privacy rights and the seizure was unreasonable because it was conducted ‘in a manner to cause humiliation to [Mr Tiwari] with no legitimate law enforcement purpose or objective.'”
NBC sought relief under the First Amendment, claiming that the show’s production and broadcast are intertwined and therefore protected.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen disagreed Tuesday, finding that the network has no basis to dismiss since Tiwari’s allegations stem from NBC’s conduct not its broadcast, which is protected speech.
The 22 page order also allows Tiwari to claim that NBC violated his right to due process by airing the program before he’d been tried or convicted of a crime. The First Amendment does not “automatically [insulate NBC] from liability,” Chen wrote. “At this juncture of the proceedings, the court cannot say that, as a matter of law, the balance in this case weighs in favor of NBC.”
NBC did succeed in striking the defamation portion of Tiwari’s complaint because of statute of limitations, but Chen said Tiwari could proceed with his claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Tiwari was charged with two felony counts stemming from his appearance on “To Catch a Predator,” both of which were dismissed. He was eventually charged by the Sonoma County district attorney with two other misdemeanors. He was acquitted of one, and the other was reduced to an infraction when he pleaded no contest in a plea deal in 2010.