DETROIT (CN) – A Fox news affiliate defamed a school wrestling coach by implying that he sent “sexy texts” to underage girls “in the wee hours of the night,” Jim Berry claims in Wayne County Court. He says Fox 2 News Edge aired the story on March 3, 2008, along with a photograph of Berry next to the story’s sensational headline: “Busted by Texts … Underage Girl Targeted.”
Brad Owens allegedly reported: “[A] hurricane of whispers about a school employee who’s in trouble. It’s sexy text Melvindale style. Melvindale Police investigates Berry’s texting. Not explicit we’re told, but purportedly out of bounds, warranting a criminal investigation. Some texts in the wee hours of the morning. There are whispers there may have been more than one female student he was textually involved with. Off camera, an employee states red flags stretch far back. School official stated he’s on paid administrative leave pending criminal investigation.”
Berry says the story was based on “spicy innuendo and gossip,” indicated by Owens choice of words. He notes that Fox 2 was the only station to run the story, and even Fox teased it by saying, “trying to get someone to comment on this story is like trying to get a mother to forfeit her firstborn. No dice.”
The story’s pervasive theme, Berry claims, was that he engaged in child predatory behavior, a charge the station couldn’t back up with credible evidence.
“Fox 2 defendants failed to find any evidence because there was no evidence,” the lawsuit claims. “This story screams sex, sex, sex.”
He says the story “immediately and powerfully” damaged his reputation, causing him to be viewed as the wrestling coach who exploited his position to gain access to underage girls.
He wants the defendants to pay exemplary and punitive damages. He is represented by Kendell Shipp-Lott.
Defendants are WJBK Fox 2 Detroit dba WJBK License and WJBK-TV, Fox Television Stations and Owens.