Reporter Says Goof Was|No Reason to Fire Him

WICHITA, Kan. (CN) – A TV reporter who tweeted the wrong plea from a murder trial sued his former employer, claiming it shouldn’t have fired him for the goof.
     Jared Cerullo sued Gray Television Group dba KAKE-TV and Michael Sipes, the station’s news director, in Sedgwick County Court.
     Cerullo claims the defendants breached his employment contract by firing him for alleged “gross negligence.”
     The mistake happened on June 25, when Cerullo was at the Sedgwick County Courthouse reporting on a preliminary hearing for a murder case involving three defendants.
     “Plaintiff thought he heard that one of the defendants had entered a guilty plea,” Cerullo says in the lawsuit. “He asked another reporter in the courtroom if the defendant had pled guilty, and the other reporter confirmed the plea. The proceedings then moved to the remaining two defendants without any recess.”
     Cerullo tweeted about the guilty plea on his KAKE-TV Twitter account and did a live report on television.
     Within minutes, Cerullo says, the District Attorney’s Office called the station and told the newsroom that his report was incorrect.
     Cerullo says he immediately issued a correction on the Twitter feed and prepared a script for a live news report to correct the error.
     When his boss, Sipes, called him, Cerullo says, “Plaintiff admitted his error, and stated that he was getting ready to do a correction on air. Plaintiff never denied making an error in reporting the plea. He did a live on-air correction, noting and apologizing for the error, and stating that the defendant would proceed to jury trial. The error by plaintiff was inadvertent and unintentional.”
     Sipes suspended Cerullo that day, pending investigation.
     The next day Sipes fired him for “gross negligence,” the complaint states.
     But Cerullo claims: “The employment agreement does not contain a provision permitting termination for ‘gross negligence.’
     He adds: “Following plaintiff’s termination, Sipes responded to viewers who called and e-mailed, falsely and maliciously stating that plaintiff had a history of unsatisfactory performance, and further stating that plaintiff had lied about his reporting error.”
     Cerullo seeks reinstatement, a ruling that his employment agreement is valid and enforceable, and damages for breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and defamation.
     He is represented by Terry Mann with Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace & Bauer.

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