A CBS reporter who was served with a letter from an FOP attorney threatening defamation backed down from running an untrue story suggesting that a Chicago Police officer was involved in generating a search warrant against her neighbor.
Officer Michelle Murphy said she was contacted by CBS reporter Michele Youngerman last week and told that CBS would not run a story suggesting that Murphy was involved in generating a warrant that was served on Murphy’s neighbor. That statement from Youngerman came just after FOP attorney Tim Grace sent a letter to CBS and Dave Savini informing him that if he ran with the story, FOP attorneys would pursue defamation.
“So there is no misunderstanding, my client does not want to speak with you as she has little to no faith that any reporting that you do will not be slanted, taken out of context and one sided. The FOP and our members always defend the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, but said rights do not protect slanderous and libelous communication. I would suggest you speak with your legal counsel before you proceed. Chicago Police Officers deserve the same privacy and constitutional rights as all citizens,” Grace wrote in the letter.
The defamation threat comes after the FOP has denounced Savini’s media attacks on Murphy for the last two years.
These attacks, the FOP has argued, do more to illuminate the suspicious relationship among the media, the city’s civilian oversight agencies, and law firms garnering huge settlements from police misconduct lawsuits.
How powerful is this relationship? Consider this, Officer Murphy was once listed as a victim in an attempted murder case after Murphy was dragged under a car driven by Catherine Brown. But under the relentless attacks against Murphy by Savini, Murphy was transformed into an offender.
Charges of attempted murder against Brown were approved by Murphy’s supervisors and then by the Cook County State’s Attorney.
In what has become a pattern at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the charges against Brown were dealt down to misdemeanor reckless conduct without the approval or input of Murphy, an act that may violate Murphy’s rights as a crime victim.
Despite being the offender, Brown filed a complaint with the city’s civilian oversight board.
That’s when CBS reporter Dave Savini began the process of transforming Murphy from the victim to the villain and Catherine Brown from the offender to the victim. He attacked Murphy and the police response to the incident, giving vivid description to Brown’s account but ignoring the police narrative.
After his broadcast painting Murphy as a villain, IPRA suddenly reopened an investigation of the incident. Savini began following Murphy around and filming her, going so far as to put her car with the license plates visible in his broadcasts. The FOP protested. CBS edited the images out, but the damage was already done.
Murphy got death threats on social media.
To recap: In the period of coverage by Savini, Murphy went from being the victim of attempted murder, to the victim of a misdemeanor, to being accused by the once offender, to having her personal information broadcast across the airwaves to receiving death threats.
Murphy’s legal case remained strong as the inevitable lawsuit against Murphy and the city took shape. Two key rulings bolstered Murphy’s case. One was the admission by the judge during the criminal trial that Murphy was in fact dragged under Brown’s car. Another was the ruling in the federal trial that Murphy and her partner did have probable cause to stop Brown to begin with.
In the end, it didn’t matter. In what has also become a pattern in the relationship among reporters, the civilian oversight board, and the law firms filing police misconduct claims, the city folded and settled. Again, right before the trial and with two key rulings by judges bolstering Murphy’s case, the corporation counsel headed by Ed Siskel capitulated and settled for $850,000.
Right after this settlement, Savini went right back to work attacking Murphy, this time investigating a claim in a lawsuit that Murphy was somehow involved in generating a search warrant executed against her neighbor.
That’s when the FOP and their attorney stepped in.
“To be unequivocally clear, Officer Murphy had nothing to do with the Cook County Judge issuing the search warrant and any such suggestion is simply false and a publication of this view by your news organization is defamatory,” Grace wrote in the letter.
But that still hasn’t stopped Savini from his relentless attack on the highly decorated officer. Savini has announced on social media that he will be broadcasting more attacks on Murphy.
Far from illuminating any misconduct against the police, Savini’s coverage illuminates the level to which the media in Chicago has sunk, a media that seems comfortable with a renegade reporter hell-bent on attacking police officers, even those who have suffered the trauma of being dragged under a car during a traffic stop.
The suffering these unwarranted, hysterical attacks impose upon police officers is staggering, coming at a time when suicides among officers are at a record high.
And they beg a dark question: What kind of people are these journalists in Chicago and what is their agenda?