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CBS sued for defamation over coverage of Navy Yard Shooting

Navy-Yard-ShootingBy Zoe Tillman, Legal Times

Rollie Chance Jr. did not open fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013, but a few news outlets reported that he was the suspected shooter. Those reports were corrected, but Chance, in a defamation lawsuit against CBS, argues he’s owed millions of dollars in damages.

After retiring from the U.S. Navy, Chance went to work as a civilian engineer for Naval Sea Systems Command at the Navy Yard, according to his complaint. In October 2012, he left on paid administrative leave and turned over his civil identification badge. Nearly a year later, he said he was at his home in Virginia when a gunman, identified later as Aaron Alexis, opened fire in a Navy Yard building.

CBS identified Chance as the shooter on the radio and on Twitter, based on reports that one of his identification cards was found near the gunman’s body. Chance said that a reporter also provided incorrect information about his employment history and falsely reported that he had been arrested shortly before the shooting. CBS later corrected its report identifying Chance as the gunman.

Chance sued CBS for defamation in September in the District of Columbia Superior Court. CBS’ lawyers on Thursday moved the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, saying the federal court was the appropriate forum because the parties were located in different states—Chance lives in Virginia, CBS is headquartered in New York—and Chance was seeking $4.5 million in damages, more than the $75,000 threshold for a federal case.

CBS’ attorney, Michael Sullivan of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, and a CBS spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment. Chance’s lawyer, Mark Cummings of Sher, Cummings & Ellis, also couldn’t be reached.

Chance said he has suffered from anxiety and depression as a result of the false identification. Besides $4.5 million in damages, he is seeking a “formal retraction and apology” from CBS.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge James Boabserg. No hearings are scheduled.

IMAGE: CCTV footage of Aaron Alexis in building 197 holding a Remington 870 shotgun. September 16, 2013.

Credit: U.S Department of the Navy/YouTube/Wikipedia

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