On Wednesday we told you about a new lawsuit being filed against Nancy Grace that potentially represents proof of the latest in a long list of ethical violations committed by her. The suit is being brought by a Denver man who claims Grace defamed him and did so under the protection of CNN and HLN, the networks for which she's inexplicably been allowed to work for years. Well, today we're getting a look at that full complaint -- and it's essentially one-stop-shopping for anyone interested in seeing just how reckless and irresponsible Grace has been throughout her career, both as a prosecutor and a television host and "legal expert" at one of the largest media companies in the world.
If you need a refresher on the case, Ben Seibert was briefly attached to an alleged home invasion back in February of this year when a woman who had just put her children to sleep found a picture on her cellphone of a man she didn't recognize. She believed that it was a photo taken at her home by someone who had broken in while she was taking care of her children. Denver Crime Stoppers began circulating the picture -- of Seibert -- implying that he was the person who had broken in and shot the selfie. When Seibert found out his photo was being linked to an alleged home invasion, he called police and informed them that the picture was actually a Facebook photo of him and was taken nowhere near the woman's home. Cops dropped the case because not only was Seibert not the home invader -- there never was a home invasion.
Nancy Grace, however, broadcast Seibert's photo on her show, dubbed Seibert the "Selfie Stalker" and called what he had allegedly done -- but didn't actually do -- "a textbook serial killer's calling card." Her team then put Seibert's photo on Facebook and Twitter and didn't take it down despite numerous requests to. Seibert says this false accusation left him humiliated in front of a national audience, branded a "weirdo" and "sicko" and even threatened by strangers on social media. He's reportedly seeking a little over $100,000 in damages, with the suit naming Grace, Turner Broadcasting and Denver Crime Stoppers as the defendants.
Having pored over the details of the lawsuit, I can tell you that one of the most noteworthy things about it is that it really does attempt to put Nancy Grace's entire despicable "shtick" on trial, so to speak. It carefully catalogs her past offenses in an attempt to show a pattern of unethical disregard for things like facts, the tenets of respectable journalism and the legal system, and the negative impact her unproven accusations can have on the lives of real, flesh-and-blood people -- innocent people. Again, if you're looking for every damning fact you need to conclude that Grace doesn't belong on national television -- that her ongoing presence on a network which bills itself as a purveyor of respectable journalism is indefensible -- it's all there.
The suit cites a 1997 Supreme Court of Georgia review of Nancy Grace as a prosecutor which calls out her "extensive pattern of inappropriate and, in some cases, illegal conduct." It goes on to detail an earlier blow delivered to Grace by the Supreme Court of Georgia, with the court reversing a conviction based on Grace's "unethical statements," and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit's own opprobrium leveled at Grace for suppressing exculpatory evidence in a case. What Seibert's lawsuit alleges is that Turner Broadcasting knew this about Grace's background but still felt no compunction in hiring her as a "legal expert."
(Note: All citations have been removed from quotes)
13. TBS has a long history with Nancy Grace and, at all relevant times, was fully aware of her pattern of making incorrect, outrageous, and defamatory statements of “fact.”
14. The Media Defendants are fully aware that during the nine years Grace was a prosecutor, she was publicly admonished for her unethical comments and conduct, twice by the Supreme Court of Georgia and once by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
20. On behalf of the Media Defendants, Grace appeared on television and continued to make outrageous and defamatory statements to a national television audience.
The suit goes on to list the histrionic and negligent claims against innocent people -- or at the very least those ultimately proven not guilty in a court of law -- Grace has made throughout her broadcasting career, which are often the product of nothing more than Grace's own belief in the absolute guilt of a person or persons.
21. In 2002, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped by Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, who held Ms. Smart for nine months until she was able to escape. Mitchell and Barzee were later convicted. However, Grace was outspoken in charge that an innocent man, Richard Ricci, was guilty and that his girlfriend helped him cover up his crime.
22. When Ms. Smart was rescued and it became obvious that Ricci was completely innocent, Grace blamed Ricci, saying that he was responsible for her slander because he had a criminal 7 record. Grace never apologized or recanted her statements, and equated attacks on her with attacks on the police, “I’m not letting you take the police with me on a guilt trip.”
23. In 2006, Grace began a groundless attack on the innocent members of the Duke University Lacrosse Team. On national television, Grace repeatedly suggested that the three young team members are guilty, “I’m so glad they didn’t miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape.”
24. After the District Attorney was disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct, the State’s Attorney General dismissed all charges and declared the three students “innocent.” Grace retracted none of her statements, made no apology, and refused to go on the air the day that the students were exonerated.
26. In 2006, two year-old Trenton Duckett went missing. Police found that his bedroom screen had been torn and began a search for the child. Both mother and father reportedcooperating fully with police, the sheriff, and the FBI. On day twelve, Grace was able to convince the child’s mother, Melinda Duckett, to come on “Nancy Grace” for an interview. On air, Ms. Duckett repeatedly advised Grace that she was instructed by the FBI to not share details with the media. However, Grace openly took issue with Ms. Duckett’s objection to providing details, and finished by accusing the mother of withholding information(.) ...
27. The interview ended with one of Grace’s guests stating, it is a “fact that she (Duckett) is skirting around the issue.” Grace added, “not giving the details . . . I have a big problem with that.”
28. The next day, Melinda Duckett put a gun to her head and committed suicide. Her son is still missing and the crime remains unsolved. When confronted about the suicide, and its obstruction of the kidnapping investigation, Grace blamed everything on the dead mother.
As I mentioned on Wednesday, Grace and Turner Broadcasting were forced to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Melinda Duckett -- and as this new suit says, the case of Trenton Duckett has never been solved. He's still missing. Whether Melinda Duckett actually killed him or not is irrelevant; Nancy Grace's on-air grilling obstructed justice by interfering with the case, which will likely never be solved. If Melinda Duckett was hiding something her secret died with her. Also as I mentioned on Wednesday, and maybe even more reprehensible from a journalistic standpoint than simply hectoring the mother of a missing child into suicide, Grace pre-taped the interview with Duckett and went ahead and aired it after Duckett had killed herself.
The suit goes on to reference another mother of a dead child who killed herself in the wake of Grace's night-after-night belligerence toward her (she had branded the woman "Vodka Mom") and the lawsuit Grace and Turner were forced to again settle.
The latest lawsuit settled by Nancy Grace and Turner Broadcasting, though, came just last week.
34. Last week, November 2, 2014, the Media Defendants settled another defamation lawsuit. After Micheal Skakel was released from prison by an appellate court, Grace told her audiencethat his semen and DNA were found at the scene. Grace was lying. She was sued, settled, forced to print a retraction-apology, and she and TBS continue business as usual.
35. Nancy Grace has engaged in a number of other persecutions that place Media Defendants on notice that she has a well-established pattern of making false accusations and defamatory statements. These include statements regarding Trayvon Martin, Danielle van Dam, Caylee Anthony, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, WWE wrestling deaths, and others.
But on to the current suit and the current allegation of defamation at the hands of Nancy Grace. Here's what the suit contends Grace said on her show on February 10th of this year, two days after Ben Seibert contacted police in Denver and informed them of the mix-up, leading them to drop the case.
"A Denver mother traumatized when she learns a creepy stranger, this guy, take a look at him, sneaks into her home, takes a selfie on her cellphone, leaves it there on the counter for her to find. All this happens while she’s putting her children to sleep. Word to the wise, this is a textbook serial killer’s calling card. Look at this guy, police looking for him now. Imagine you putting your children to sleep in their bedroom. You come out, you know, clean up the kitchen, grab your cellphones, go plug them in when you find this guy’s been in your home, you see your home in the background. This guy’s been in your home taking his own picture while you’re down the hall putting your children to sleep. Let’s see that uh, that poster again... We gotta catch this creepy guy."
Remember, not only had Seibert committed no crime, there was no crime. Irrespective, Nancy Grace went on live television and in her capacity as a "legal expert" jumped to a conclusion about his guilt without an ounce of evidence or attribution and without the benefit of even hedging a little. She practically convicted him without a trial.
66. All defendants made publications that were, (1) not cautiously phrased in terms of “apparency”, but made in an alarmist and incendiary manner, (2) presented in a context to suggest they were statements of fact about a real and present danger, and (3) in a format that appeared to be devoted to reporting the facts and truth, during a “Headline News” program.
67. Grace’s statements were made with certainty and confidence during a factual news format, on “Headline News”, a network purporting to broadcast factual news to the public. Grace stated her publications based on undisclosed facts. Consequently, defendants’ publications are statements of fact, not opinion.
Here's what was posted to Facebook by Grace's team, what remained up for seven long months despite attempts by Seibert to get it taken down. According to a source, it took a cease-and-desist order to finally get it removed. Note how many people liked the post and shared it as well as some of the comments in response.
The bottom line here is that Nancy Grace hung this poor guy out to dry based on nothing but her own snap judgment and without an ounce of caution or the kind of attribution that's a necessity in journalism. Put it this way: If you don't attribute accusations and if you call people guilty on national television without their being actually tried in court, guess what happens to you? You get sued. If your employer is reputable, you also get fired. And yet Nancy Grace hasn't been fired. She's done this over and over and over again and because she pulls in decent numbers she's allowed to remain on the air. What CNN and HLN are doing is essentially adhering to a formula which has determined that it costs less to pay out victims and settle lawsuits than it does to fire Nancy Grace, given her decent ratings on an otherwise barren network. It's that simple -- and that cynical.
While a lot of the background information in the Seibert suit was already available to anyone willing to go looking for it, maybe the blatant disregard for Seibert's presumption of innocence will lead people to his lawsuit, and the treasure trove of damning information contained within will remind people just how despicable a presence Nancy Grace is on cable news. As I said on Wednesday, she's not simply making offensive comments or offering controversial opinions -- she's doing real damage to real people. She's ruining lives. And she has to go.