FOP Attorney Threatens Defamation Action To CBS And Reporter
Fed up with what FOP Vice President Martin Preib says is a media witch hunt of a Chicago Police officer, an FOP attorney threatened CBS reporter Dave Savini with a defamation lawsuit if he broadcasts allegations that a Chicago Police officer engineered a search warrant against her neighbor.
Attorney Tim Grace has sent the letter to Savini after the FOP learned that Savini may be planning yet another hit piece on Chicago Police Officer Michelle Murphy.
Savini and his colleagues inquired last week about whether Murphy had initiated or played any role in the execution of a search warrant on Murphy’ neighbor, an accusation Murphy vehemently denies. Murphy and several residents in her neighborhood have been engaged in an ongoing dispute with the neighbors that has resulted in several 911 calls and police reports.
“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.
Savini’s latest inquiries about problems with a neighbor come in the wake of a litany of other attacks painting Murphy in a false light. Taken together, they paint a vivid picture of what a hardworking police officer can endure from media activists like Savini.
Murphy was dragged under a car during a traffic stop on the South Side in 2013. The offender who was driving the car, Catherine Brown, was charged with attempted murder.
Murphy was hospitalized with broken ribs, cuts, and back pain. Charges of attempted murder were approved by Murphy’s supervisors and then by the Cook County State’s Attorney.
In the criminal trial against Brown, the attempted murder charge was 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 Brown’s conviction, she filed a complaint against Murphy with the civilian oversight agency at the time, IPRA, but that complaint went nowhere, in part because Brown refused to sign an affidavit.
But then Chicago’s media began working their magic. CBS reporter Dave Savini took up the case. 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, giving vivid description to Brown’s account but ignoring the police narrative.
It paid off right away. 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.
Despite Savini’s hit job, the Murphy’s 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.
If judges admitted that Murphy had the right to stop Brown and that Murphy was dragged under Brown’s car, what case did Brown have?
In the end, it didn’t matter. The city’s corporation counsel headed by Ed Siskel settled the case for $850,000 just before the trial was to begin. Murphy went from being the victim in an attempted murder case to a defendant in a civil trial that was settled.
Another lawsuit was made against Murphy, claiming she initiated a search warrant against her neighbor. This week, Murphy received a phone call from CBS and staff working with Savini, asking about the warrant and her role in it.
Savini broadcasting claims that Murphy had any role in a search warrant crosses the line.
“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.