HUNTINGTON – U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers has cleared WCHS-TV8 of charges that its news team defamed day care provider Kim Tomblin.
Chambers granted summary judgment to WCHS on Jan. 21, finding that it fairly and accurately reported allegations of sexual abuse at Kim's Kids in Barboursville.
"Plaintiff's argument that no sexual abuse occurred, or that 'sexual abuse' is not an accurate descriptor for the events in question, is simply without merit," he wrote.
He roasted expert psychologist Timothy Saar for writing a report about the effect of the news segment without taking two minutes to watch it.
Chambers declared the report unreliable and wrote that "it is inconceivable that kind of comment without foundation would be accepted in the field."
Tomblin appealed on Jan. 29, to the U.S. Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.
WCHS broadcast a segment about Kim's Kids in 2006, when a mother alleged that a boy stuck a finger into her son's rectum and grabbed his genitals.
Reporter Elizabeth Noreika interviewed the mother. Noreika knocked on the door at Kim's Kids, and the person who answered gave no statement.
Noreika told viewers that workers denied allegations but wouldn't appear on camera.
She quoted a statement from Kim's Kids, denying any and all allegations. She didn't tell viewers that a child committed the alleged abuse.
She quoted a state spokesman who said an investigation turned up enough signs of worker inattentiveness to close Kim's Kids.
The spokesman said Kim's Kids would remain open pending appeal but would take no new children.
As the segment ended, the unhappy mother said she wanted the place shut down.
Tomblin sued WCHS in 2008, claiming it left an impression that an adult sexually abused a child.
She claimed that viewers seeing her at the door suspected her of abuse. She claimed she felt the community looked on her as a child molester.
She claimed she withdrew from church. She claimed she lost sleep and weight.
Noreika stood by her work, adding that state spokesman John Law approved the script over a telephone and approved the segment after previewing it.
Tomblin submitted affidavits of friends and family on her state of mind, but Chambers ruled that they dealt with "matters outside the scope of their personal perception."
"As a fair and accurate representation of the mother's allegations and opinions, the day care's response and the results of the DHHR investigation, the WCHS news broadcast is not capable of carrying a defamatory meaning," Chambers wrote. "The WCHS news team presented as balanced a perspective as was required on the available information.
"They did nothing throughout the broadcast to insert their own opinions or endorse those of any subject in the story."
James McQueen Jr. of Charleston represents WCHS. So do Richard Goehler and Patricia Foster of Cincinnati.
Jay Love of Huntington represents Tomblin.