OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – In a classic defamation claim, a man says he lost his job after a newspaper printed a Page 1 photo of him using a bank’s ATM machine, with the caption “Police seek alleged thief.” But it was the wrong photo of the wrong guy, Benedict Mbong says in Federal Court.
Mbong sued JP Morgan Chase Bank, The Norman Transcript newspaper, and the City of Norman.
He says the bank’s security camera captured him making “a regular deposit” at its ATM machine on Sept. 22, 2009.
On Oct. 6, the Norman Transcript printed his photo “on the front page, making his ATM deposit, with the caption ‘Police seek alleged thief,'” he says.
The story “indicated that Mr. Mbong was the person who had stolen a purse to use the ATM card … and that the photograph of Mr. Mbong was that of him attempting to use the stolen card.”
He says the photo and story were republished on local TV and the Internet.
But Mbong says he had nothing to do with the crime, and that Norman’s assistant city attorney admitted it in a letter of Oct. 9. Mbong says the city’s attorney sent him the letter at the insistence of his own attorney.
It was too late for Mbong, though. “As a result of the foregoing events, Mr. Mbong was terminated from his job and ostracized by his peers,” he says. “Mr. Mbong made many attempts to verify the inaccuracy of the reports to the bank, police department and newspaper, to no avail.”
Mbong sued the Norman Transcript, the City of Norman and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank for negligence, defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of the Financial Privacy Act.
He seeks damages in excess of $75,000.
Mbong is represented David Keesling with Richardson Richardson and Boudreaux of Tulsa.