Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Judge reverses order; station airs sex report

February 6, 2004


— A Kansas City television station broadcast the first part of an investigative report on Internet sex predators after a federal judge vacated an earlier order barring parts of the story from the air.

A man identified in the story by CBS-affiliate KCTV filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday, and later in the day, U.S. District Judge Scott O. Wright ordered the station not to broadcast his name and face.

The plaintiff was identified in the lawsuit only as "John Doe."

In vacating that decision Thursday, Wright wrote, "A temporary restraining order in this context is a violation of the First Amendment's prohibition against prior restraints."

The report, part of a five-part series, began on KCTV Thursday night. A St. Joseph man identified as a U.S. Navy recruiter who worked in high schools came to a house in Independence, Mo., where he expected to meet a 14-year-old girl to have sex, the report said.

Instead, he met the station's investigative reporters, who had arranged for the meeting through an Internet chat room. The meeting was set up, the station said, by a man affiliated with the Web site. The site seeks to expose those who attempt to use chat rooms to meet minors for sex.

On meeting the reporters, the man said he was in the area to spread the Gospel.

The pastor of the man's church said the man was not representing the church, and the Navy has since removed the man from duty in schools, KCTV reported.

The station also reported that the man said he was getting help and would not take part in chat rooms again.

The station did not say whether the man was the same one who filed the lawsuit, but noted the legal challenge before airing the two-part, seven-minute segment.

Station manager Kirk Black said he was not surprised by Wright's decision to vacate his initial order.

"Obviously, KCTV is happy that the judge has seen that the First Amendment protects this important news series," station lawyer Bernard Rhodes said.

The lawsuit was filed after KCTV broadcast an advertisement for the story during the Super Bowl game on Sunday. The ad, which showed several men's faces, continued to air during the week and was shown on the station's Web site.

It showed the men approaching a house, with narration: "They came expecting sex -- with a 14-year-old. They left, trying to hide from our cameras. Now complete and uncut, they're exposed."

Kevin Baldwin, who represents the man who sued the station, did not return calls seeking comment.

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