The director of a program for troubled youths has filed a libel suit against KTVX Channel 4 television, its two anchors, Karen Carns and Phil Riesen, and reporter Sheila Hamilton.
The 3rd District Court lawsuit by Layne R. Meacham and his company, Proctor Advocate Inc., says the station libeled and defamed Meacham and his company in stories Nov. 23 and 24 concerning the Proctor Advocate program.It seeks $47,400 in general damages, "said sum being equal to the loss of income from six prospective customers."
The defendants' attorney, Tom Karrenberg, said he has not advised his clients to retract and sees no reason why they should.
Dave Woodcock, KTVX vice president and general manager, said, "We really don't think there's much to their suit. We stand behind the stories."
Karrenberg said the stories reported accusations by some former and current Proctor Advocate clients and their parents of physical and emotional abuse in the program. The stories also reported favorable comments about the program by current clients.
"In our opinion, it was a very well-balanced report of what the community and clients are saying about this program," he said.
Meacham said he doesn't care if the stories called him flamboyant or his methods controversial. "But when they say that there are physical beatings going on over here and when they say that kids are being emotionally abused over here," that's another matter.
He also objected to what he said were statements that state officials had launched an official investigation into the program. He said officials saying they would check out a complaint on a particular incident is a far cry from launching a full investigation.
Meacham said no corporal punishment is used in his program. "The only thing we will do is use passive physical restraint in the event the kid moves on one of us." He said he's been kicked in the groin, clawed and attacked by clients. "We're not going to just take that. We will hold a kid and hold them down."
Meacham and his attorney, Robert B. Hansen, said they are not contending that the KTVX reports were not balanced.
"I don't think they intended to harm," Hansen said. But he said reporting - even in a balanced way - the false statements of others is still libel.
Karrenberg said he plans to move for dismissal of the case, which he described as a nuisance suit.