Man sues publication, says he was misrepresented as sex offender

Friday, December 17, 2010 at 4:48pm

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.


5 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 12/18/10 at 8:47

I agree that this is a serious situation for Hatcher. I do not know how one can recover from such an error.

By: courier37027 on 12/18/10 at 10:57

In this world of copy and paste news reporting, this will be a wake up call to these alleged publications.

By: HGR on 12/20/10 at 8:00

I think one of the best ways to find justice is to place the newspaper owners picture, the editors picture, and the authors picture on the front page with the same Sex Offender claim for 6 months in the Tennessean ......... lets see how they like the sudden badboy child molester treatment as they walk around town.

By: deepthroat on 2/16/11 at 12:37

I don't feel sorry at all for these individuals. The photos used are MUG SHOTS. This means they were arrested for a CRIME. If somebody is confused about what crime they were arrested for all they have to do is read the article. Just because my picture appears on the same page as an article about the president doesn't mean that I AM the president. Somebody ought to teach these bleeding heart liberals how to read instead of just looking at the pictures.

By: ALS GAL1 on 9/15/12 at 9:07

@deepthroat...there is a big difference in having your picture under a title that says "PRESIDENT" and SEX OFFENDER." You're more than likely to get a positive response/feedback from your neighbors. But if you've been hit with the other title people don't want you near their homes or children. Your co-workers spread rumors and your boss began to look at you in a totally different way which can have an impact that could result in termination. If you get arrested for anything like driving on suspended license you get a mugshot. Realistically no one wants to be affiliated with a sex offender. If you have family/friends and loved ones can you honestly say you would treat an allleged SEX OFFENDER as such?