Man sues the Register-Herald over picture

By Kyla Asbury | May 22, 2013

BECKLEY - A man who says his photograph was wrongfully used in connection with an article in the Register-Herald about a man who was charged with sexual assault is suing it for libel.

Community Holdings of West Virginia Inc. is doing business as the Register-Herald and is also known as Beckley Newspapers.

On June 13, the defendant published a story with an attendant photograph, wherein it stated that Randy Keith Cordle was arrested and charged with one count of third-degree sexual assault and five counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, according to a complaint filed May 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Beckley.

Scott Cafego claims the article quoted an official from the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children Unit, stating that the victim was a family member and the abuse had started when the child was 15 years old and further quoted a criminal complaint filed in Mercer County Magistrate Court that stated that Cordle had sexual intercourse and engaged in other sexual acts with the victim beginning in 2011 when she was 15.

The defendants, in reckless disregard of the truth, placed Cafego's picture squarely in the center of the article, thereby associating him with the heinous sexual allegations of the real perpetrator, according to the suit.

On the same day as the Cordle story, the Register-Herald had a story about Cafego being arrested for drug trafficking.

Cafego claims the picture was clearly defamatory on its face and the association of the picture with the sexual crimes in the article held him up to ridicule, contempt, shame, disgrace, degraded him in the estimation of the community and induced an evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking people.

The publication of the article and the picture in question is libelous as it exposed Cafego to hatred, contempt, and ridicule and because it charges him and associates him as having committed sexual crimes, according to the suit.

Cafego claims as a result of the defendant's publication, he suffered loss of reputation, shame and mortification.

The defendant's publication was not privileged and was published in reckless disregard for the truth, according to the suit.

Cafego is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by Philip J. Tissue.

The suit was first filed in Raleigh Circuit Court, before being removed to federal court.

In its answer to the plaintiff's complaint, the defendant denied that it acted in reckless disregard of the truth in placing the picture with the article, but that the picture should not have appeared with the article, according to the defendant's answer.

The Register-Herald is being represented by Stuart A. McMillan and Jarred T. Moore of Bowles Rice LLP.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Beckley case number: 5:13-cv-11023

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