A federal judge has refused to throw out a defamation lawsuit against NBC over a segment on the net’s “Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator.”
U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen denied NBC’s motion to dismiss, as well as another motion that would delay the discovery phase of a trial and part of a motion to strike.
The controversial, now-defunct pedophile sting show netted former Sun Microsystems engineer Anurag Tiwari in a 2006 undercover operation in Petaluma, Calif. Tiwari was among the men who arrived at a house where a 13-year-old girl (actually an 18-year-old actress) was supposedly alone without her parents.
The two felony counts against Tiwari were dismissed, and he is suing the network for defamation, emotional distress and invasion of privacy based on the humiliation caused when police allegedly arrested him with unnecessary force at the behest of “Predator” producers. Tiwari also alleges that police walked him out of the precinct house to be photographed for the show.
“If NBC instructed the police to arrest Mr. Tiwari in a sensational way, even though that was not necessary — e.g., using multiple police officers with guns raised — then a reasonable jury could find that NBC acted in reckless disregard (of causing emotional distress),” said Chen in a 22-page order filed this week.
“NBC argues that even its conduct should be considered speech because the production and the broadcast of the show are inextricably intertwined,” Chen wrote. “That argument lacks merit.”