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Sunday, March 3, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Newlywed Says Clear|Channel Defamed Her

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A newlywed says she does not know football star Chad Ochocinco, but that didn't stop Clear Channel radio host "Jonesy" from defaming her by posting a stolen photo of her on the Power99 station's website with the false assertion that she is pregnant with Ochocinco's child.

Hana Augins, whose husband is serving in Afghanistan, says the defendants caused her "entire life to be turned upside down" in February when Jonesy posted her picture, with the spurious assertion that she had had a sexual relationship with Ochocinco, who formerly was known as Chad Johnson. Ochocinco is not a party to the complaint.

Augins' ordeal began when a woman known as "Paige" called the "Jonesy in the Morning" show and "said during the on-air call to Jonesy that she is three months pregnant by Ochocinco, who is widely known to be engaged to be married to a different woman," according to the federal complaint.

Paige then sent a purported picture of herself to Jonesy (Tarsha Jones), according to the complaint.

"However, the photograph Paige sent to Jonesy was, in fact, a photograph of plaintiff," the complaint states.

"Without verifying the authenticity of the photograph ... Jonesy caused the misidentified photograph of plaintiff to be posted on the Power99 website under the heading: 'Chad Ochocinco's Baby Mama Revealed!!!!!'," according to the complaint.

That's when the story went viral, Augins says.

In what the complaint characterizes as an "electronic onslaught," the photo and story were "picked up and posted on no fewer than fifty (50) websites ... many of whom have posted additional photographs of plaintiff under similar headlines and descriptions," in which Augins is repeatedly referred to as Ochocinco's "baby mama."

At least 15 of the websites are controlled by defendant Radio One, Augins says.

When she tried to have the photos removed, Augins says, the response was anything but accommodating.

Defendant Robert Littal, CEO of the website BlackSportsOnline, "consistently and incredulously" refuses to remove the photos from his site "until plaintiff proves to him that she is not [caller] 'Paige,'" according to the complaint.

Viewers of the photograph left comments "amounting to ridicule and contempt directed at plaintiff's image," and Augins was "bombarded with telephone calls, emails, and text messages from all over the country by family members, friends and associates, who were shocked, outraged and extremely embarrassed by the postings," the complaint states.

Adding insult to injury, when Augins contacted Jonesy and told him that she was "extremely humiliated" by the postings, Jonesy went on the attack, Augins says. Jonesy acknowledged that her photo had been posted despite a producer's suspicion that it might have been doctored, and "expressed unwarranted and uninvited jocularity about the controversy and even said to plaintiff that she (plaintiff) was beautiful and asked plaintiff whether she was sure she didn't 'want to meet Ochocinco,'" according to the complaint. (Parentheses in original.)

When Jonesy received a cease-and-desist letter from Augins' attorney, requesting that the host apologize to Augins, once per hour during his show, the host acted "as if plaintiff were the perpetrator as opposed to the victim in this sexually charged episode," Augins claims.

The host sent an email to Augins warning her that if her attorney "contacts me on ANY level ever again I will not hesitate to file criminal charges against him for harassment," according to the complaint.

That same day, Jonesy followed up with another angry missive: "Tell ur lawyer he's a fuckin fool if he thinks I'm apologizing to you once an hour on air or at all! Yall are greedy bastards trying to get a payday but it aint gonna happen. Foh," the host fumed, according to the complaint. (All spellings as in complaint.)

"'Foh' commonly means 'Fuck outta here,'" according to the complaint.

Augins says she "does not know Paige or Ochocinco, and is not aware of how her photographs were stolen and submitted to Jonesy at Power99."

She says she works as a contractor for Lockheed Martin, studying HIV and influenza, and recently married a lieutenant serving in Afghanistan.

Augins says she "has attempted to live her life morally" and is devastated by being placed at the center of this "sordid story."

She says she's been "totally demoralized, embarrassed, and mentally and emotionally damaged by this entire experience," and has sought psychological counseling as a result.

She says she is not the only one who's been harmed by the scurrilous postings.

Her husband, "who is presently fighting for his country in Afghanistan, has also been adversely affected emotionally and mentally by the widespread circulation of his newlywed wife's images all over the World Wide Web," Augins says.

The defamatory postings have "caused suffering by plaintiff as her husband's pain is communicated to her through their frequent telephone conversations," according to the complaint.

She seeks punitive damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, infringement of the right of publicity, and reckless infliction of emotional distress. Defendants include Clear Channel Communication, Radio One, and Robert Littal dba Black Sports Online but not Tarsha Jones/Jonesy.

Augins also wants the defendants ordered to remove any and all photos of her from their websites.

"Imagine if your photograph is attached over there on the web with a story that's not true and family, friends, co-workers and others, and even people you see in the mall, are looking at you in a different light because they've seen your picture on the Internet connected with a story like this," one of Augins' attorneys, Brian McCormick Jr., with Sheller P.C. in Philadelphia, told Courthouse News.

Angel Aristone, Clear Channel's vice president of marketing and communications, declined to comment.

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