A man who was quickly branded a “selfie stalker” after his picture turned up on a crime victim’s cellphone is suing television commentator Nancy Grace for defamation, saying she refused to stop airing his photo even after authorities had cleared him of any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit filed Monday in Denver says Grace, who hosts a show on Turner Broadcasting’s HLN network, incorrectly told millions of viewers that Ben Seibert invaded a woman’s home and snapped a photo of himself on her phone, which she described as a “textbook serial killer’s calling card.”
Seibert said Grace humiliated him with her commentary, which went viral on an array of social media sites where readers called him a weirdo, a sicko, a rapist and a pervert. The suit says Grace didn’t check the facts and didn’t care.
“It hasn’t been easy for him as a result of this,” Seibert’s attorney John Pineau said.
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Denver Metro Crime Stoppers released Seibert’s photo on Jan. 29, after a woman called police saying a man had entered her home while she was putting her children to bed. Police said she was especially fearful because she believed the man had taken a selfie with her phone inside of her home.
But further investigation showed the picture was Seibert’s Facebook photo that had been taken elsewhere. Seibert, who was working in California, called police Feb. 8 after friends told him his photo was being associated with the Denver home invasion. He was not charged.
The same month, police told Grace her broadcast was false, but she continued to air it, according to the lawsuit, which seeks more than $100,000 in damages.
Turner Broadcasting did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment. Through his attorney, Seibert declined to comment.
The suit also names Crime Stoppers, which Seibert says refused to stop publishing his picture even after Denver police notified the organization of the mistake.
Mike Mills, board president of Metro Denver Crime Stoppers, told The Associated Press that police agencies choose when to release and retract crime alerts.
“When we heard there was a mistake, or that it had been retracted, we pulled it off Facebook, we pulled it off Twitter, we pulled it off our website,” Mills said.
The lawsuit points to other cases in which it says Grace made “outrageous and defamatory” comments on television, and notes that several courts admonished her for unethical conduct during the nine years she was a prosecutor.
“Based on the history we’ve researched regarding Ms. Grace, we’re pretty confident there are other victims,” Pineau said, urging others to come forward to help Seibert’s case.