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Man defamed when police falsely accuse him of kidnapping

Imagine that you are sitting at home one evening, watching the news, when suddenly you see a picture of yourself with the caption “suspect at large.” At first you might be shocked or even confused. After all, you haven’t committed any crimes that would warrant a search. But as more news agencies pick up the story and continue to refer to you as a suspect, the feeling of shock turns to anger, especially toward the police who accused you in the first place.

As frequent readers of our blog know, false accusations such as this can have a negative effect on a person’s life. Not only is someone subjected to scrutiny from the general public but it can also interfere with their work and/or future employment. Those who are falsely accused are often left with a feeling of injustice and may want to seek compensation through civil litigation, which is what our California readers will see in the case below.

In a case out of New York, a man is suing New York City’s police commissioner as well as major news outlets for the defamatory statements they made against him in a kidnapping case last year. He was accused of the serious crime after the victim, who was an accountant at a bank, identified him as one of the kidnappers. The police commissioner identified the man based on bank surveillance video and claimed that it showed him allegedly stealing money from the victim’s account.

But this wasn’t the case at all. It turns out the victim was the man’s accountant and the video footage was actually of him depositing money into the victim’s account for accounting fees. But this was not the information that was released to the media and instead he was accused by several news sources with having been involved in the kidnapping.

Though it’s unclear whether these false accusations resulted in any charges or an arrest, they did cause the man to suffer emotional distress as well as a loss in earnings. He is now seeking an injunction as well as punitive damages for defamation of character and the damage to his reputation.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Man Says NYPD Screwed Up & Defamed Him,” Iulia Filip, May 6, 2014

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