A Murfreesboro man is suing a niche publication sold in many Middle Tennessee convenience stores for defamation, claiming he was misrepresented as a sex offender.
The defamation suit filed by Japheth McAlister in Davidson County Circuit Court last week alleges the Just Busted publication damaged his reputation by running his photo on the cover of an issue in July with the words “sex offenders near schools.”
McAlister’s attorney, Bob Foy of Foy Law Group in Rutherford County (where McAlister lives), said some of those who saw the photo in Just Busted assumed that McAlister had been convicted of a sex offense, which he hadn’t.
“He was approached by several people,” Foy said, “ranging from people he knew very well to just people he knew in passing questioning him about it and what not.”
Foy added, “In a couple of cases, he was being accused of being a sex offender and people were spreading it around.”
McAlister seeks a jury trial to award punitive and compensatory damages for what the suit document calls public humiliation after “[McAlister] was approached by several individuals who made statements to him that he was a sex offender.”
A phone number for the Tennessee-licensed business listed as Just Busted LLC at 4107 Tacoma Ave. in Chattanooga is no longer in service and it is unclear if the company has retained legal counsel.
Foy said that although Just Busted is published in several counties and McAlister lives in Rutherford County, they decided to file the suit in Davidson County because it had the largest circulation nearby.
McAlister’s suit isn’t the first filed against Just Busted. Horace Hatcher, of Hamilton County, filed a similar suit in circuit court there after Hatcher claimed that an August edition of the publication ran a photo of him along with others under a headline identifying them as sex offenders living near a community pool.
On July 28, according to Hatcher’s suit, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation informed him that he was no longer listed on the sex offender registry. Despite disclaimers warning against inaccuracy and completeness on the registry’s website, the suit claims Just Busted published the information anyway.
Hatcher asked the court to order Just Busted to run a retraction for the next six months with no cost to Hatcher. Hatcher is also seeking $200,000.