MANHATTAN (CN) – Even though the two women don’t look very similar, the New York Post and other media outlets misidentified the grieving friend of a man allegedly murdered by his fiancée as a “Kayak Killer,” a lawsuit states.
In a widely reported tragedy, Vincent Viafore disappeared on April 19 while kayaking with his bride-to-be Angelika Graswald down the Hudson River. Graswald had been wearing a life preserver that day, but Viafore was not.
Authorities rescued Graswald that night in response to her 911 call, but they didn’t recover Viafore’s body during that mission.
Quickly branding Graswald as the “Kayak Killer,” the tabloid press latched onto the more lurid details of the case that surfaced. A divorcée from Latvia, Graswald allegedly wrote in her journal that she wished Viafore was dead for pressuring her into rough sex and threesomes.
Graswald’s lawyers insist their client is innocent and that prosecutors misread her statements and behavior because of translation errors and cultural differences.
In a 56-page lawsuit, upstate New York resident Katherine Grieco accuses eight news outlets and one private blogger of defamation for misidentifying her in a photo they pulled from Facebook.
The corporate owners of the New York Post (NYP Holdings), CNN (Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner), the Associated Press, CBS News, Fox Television Stations, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Ora Media and the gossip blog Scallywag & Vagabond are named as defendants in Grieco’s complaint.
None of these outlets distinguished the brunette Grieco from the blonde Graswald in stories, tagging the wrong woman as an alleged killer engaged in “rough sex and threesomes,” according to the complaint.
“As to Grieco, this was completely untrue,” the complaint states. “Grieco was friends with Viafore for three years and appeared in one photograph with him that was publically shared on Viafore’s Facebook wall. However, the woman who was arrested for murdering Viafore was his fiancée, Angelika Graswald … not the plaintiff.”
The two women bear “only superficial similarities in their appearance,” Grieco says.
“At the time of her arrest, Graswald had made numerous appearances in the media and both Viafore and Graswald’s Facebook profiles were inundated with photographs of the couple,” the complaint states.
During the criminal investigation, Graswald posted several pictures of herself with her deceased fiancé on Facebook, along with a few smiling selfies of herself and her cat.
“Rather than find a photograph of Graswald, the defendants chose to recklessly use a photograph of Grieco,” the complaint continues.
Pointing out that the outlets include “some of the most experienced and professional enterprises in the news business,” Grieco’s lawyers write: “At best, they were grossly negligent and at worst they had intentional or reckless disregard of plaintiff’s rights.”
The complaint continues: “They falsely depicted her as being the same person as Graswald, the supposed killer, even though Grieco has no connection to the crime, Unfortunately this has led to multiple individuals contacting plaintiff asking her if she was involved in the crime. This has damaged plaintiff.”
Grieco demands unspecified damages from the outlets for libel and slander per se.
Her lawyer Daniel Szalkiewicz filed the complaint on Monday.
On Wednesday, The New York Times splashed some cold water onto some of their competitors’ sensational reporting with a story focused on the science rather than the sex of the case.
Quoting several local kayaking experts, the Times reported that Viafore and Graswald made a “long list of rookie mistakes” that paved the way for tragedy, regardless of whether the criminal allegations are true.
Neither of them wore a dry suit to protect them from the shock of cold water, and both used kayaks inappropriate for the choppy waves, the experts said.
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