NBC Denied in Effort to Dismiss 'To Catch a Predator' Suicide SuitWed Feb 27, 2008 @ 02:28PM PST
Posted by Matthew Heller
A New York judge has stung NBC Universal for participating in a police sting operation against a suspected pedophile who killed himself while a crew was waiting outside his home to tape his arrest for "Dateline: To Catch a Predator."
NBC had moved to dismiss a $100 million suit filed by the sister of Louis Conradt, arguing it owed no duty to protect him from suicide and its alleged conduct was not so "extreme and dangerous" that it met the standard under Texas law for intentional infliction of emotional distress. But U.S. District Judge Denny Chin ruled this week that the case can proceed.
"[I]f the allegations of the amended complaint are proven, a reasonable jury could find that NBC crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement," Chin wrote in his decision. A copy is here.
Police began an investigation of Conradt, an assistant prosecutor in Rockwell County, Texas, after he allegedy communicated online with a decoy who had been posing as a 13-year old boy. When a SWAT team went to Conradt's home in November 2006 to serve warrants, "Dateline" correspondent Chris Hansen (left) and a camera crew were with them. Footage from the raid was aired in February 2007.
Chin ruled that rather than merely report on law enforcement's anti-crime efforts, NBC "purportedly instigated and then placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation" and, on the alleged facts,
a reasonable jury could find that there was no legitimate law enforcement need for a heavily armed SWAT team to extract a 56-year old prosecutor from his home when he was not accused of any actual violence and was not believed to have a gun, and that this was done solely "to sensationalize and enhance the entertainment value" of the arrest.
The case can now proceed on the merits. A spokeswoman for NBC said "the evidence will ultimately show that 'Dateline' acted responsibly and lawfully."