Defamation lawsuit against WTSP-Ch. 10 reporter Mike Deeson tossed by judge
A defamation lawsuit filed last year by a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy against the owner of St. Petersburg CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 and reporter Mike Deeson has ended with a summary judgment favoring Deeson and the station.
Back in 2009, Cpl. Steven Dickey sued Gannett Co. and Deeson, saying the reporter selectively edited video to make it appear the officer was laughing at quadriplegic jail inmate Brian Sterner when he was dumped from a wheelchair. His action contended WTSP’s story on the incident drew the officer unfairly into the controversy and led to global ridicule when the footage became a viral sensation on the Internet.
But according to a report filed by my colleague Alex Zayas in Tampa, Circuit Judge William P. Levens "ruled Sept. 8 that the broadcast was a fair report of a public record, Deeson's statement during the story that Dickey 'appears to think (the wheelchair dumping) is funny' was an opinion, the report was substantially true and there was no evidence of actual malice."
Dickey's lawsuit seemed another eruption of a longstanding friction between Deeson and Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, which temporarily suspended contact with the entire station in Sept. 2009 over objections about stories he reported, refusing to notify WTSP of press conferences or press releases. The ban only lasted a day; after a meeting with WTSP officials, the department lifted it, but continued to insist Deeson's reports unfairly criticized their agency. Deeson and WTSP said they stood by his reports.
Dickey's attorney has asked for a rehearing.