Philly Cop Accuses ABC Affiliate of Defamation

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) — A Philadelphia cop claims in court that he was falsely accused of domestic abuse in a local ABC affiliate’s story in the wake of his fiancée’s suicide.
     In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Joseph Sanchez alleges that Wendy Saltzman, a reporter for Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate WPVI-TV, “knowingly made false assertions of domestic violence” in print and on-air statements about his fiancée’s death.
     Most damning was a published statement about a hospital trip made by Sanchez’s late fiancée, Erica Koschman, during which she allegedly told nurses Sanchez was physically abusing her “but said she was afraid to call police because her boyfriend is a police officer,” according to the complaint.
     The article allegedly went on to state that Koschman told police who were summoned to the hospital that the bruises on her legs were accidental and that she did not want to press charges.
     In reality, Sanchez claims, no records exist from Koschman’s emergency room visit that mention domestic abuse, and police were never called to either the hospital or the home.
     Koschman shot herself in the head in Sanchez’s presence inside their shared home in January 2012, his lawsuit states.
     Saltzman’s subsequent story on the suicide was titled “Investigation: Death of Officer’s Fiancée Questioned; Calls to Reopen Case,” and was published on WPVI’s website, according to the complaint.
     Sanchez contends that Saltzman’s conversations with Sharon Koschman, his late fiancée’s mother, formed the basis for her defamatory statements. Saltzman broadcast a televised interview with the grieving mother, which allegedly resulted in the quote, “She didn’t shoot herself, period. It wasn’t suicide.”
     That quote also found its way into Saltzman’s online story questioning the cause of Erica Koschman’s death, Sanchez claims.
     But he says the investigative reporter never went to him for his side of the story. He was afforded no opportunity to comment on the allegations in Saltzman’s article before she went live with them, according to the complaint.
     Both a coroner’s report and a follow-up police investigation ruled Koschman’s cause of death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the lawsuit states.
     She had previously tried to kill herself by overdosing on prescription medication while she and Sanchez were dating, according to Sanchez.
     Saltzman allegedly made no mention of Koschman’s “history of mental illness and substance abuse” in either her article or live telecast, instead falsely stating that Sanchez “was ‘broke’ and Erica Koschman was going to fix him.”
     Sanchez seeks at least $50,000 plus unspecified punitive damages from WPVI and Saltzman for claims of defamation, libel, slander and false light.
     He says that Saltzman reported “various factual inaccuracies” about him with reckless disregard for the truth and with the intent to “malign, defame and damage” him and his reputation.
     WPVI executives did not return a Thursday afternoon voicemail seeking comment.
     Sanchez is represented by Philadelphia attorneys Gary Schafkopf of Hopkins and Schafkopf and Matthew Weisberg of Weisberg Law.

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