The Kansas City radio show “Afentra’s Big Fat Morning Buzz” took a big hit from a federal court jury Friday.
A woman falsely identified as a porn star during a 2012 broadcast on 96.5 The Buzz was awarded $1 million after a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.
Ashley Patton filed the suit against the radio station’s owner, Entercom Kansas City, seeking damages for mental suffering, shame and humiliation.
The jury awarded Patton $250,000 in actual damages and $750,000 in punitive damages.
As part of an agreement negotiated while jurors were deliberating the amount of punitive damages, the company will not appeal the verdict, said Patton’s lawyer, Arthur Benson.
Both sides agreed that Patton was not and never had been involved in the pornography industry.
Benson told jurors in closing arguments Friday that the company needed to be held accountable for the conduct of employees who acted with reckless disregard of the truth.
Fritz Riesmeyer, attorney for Entercom, said that although false and highly offensive, identifying Patton as a porn star was a mistake and not done with malice, as the law required for her to collect damages.
“While we are very disappointed in the outcome, we will abide by the jury's verdict,” Entercom spokesman Kevin Geary said Friday.
The incident that led to the suit occurred during the April 20, 2012, morning show hosted by Afentra Bandokoudis, known as “Afentra,” and Daniel Terreros, known as “Danny Boi.”
During the broadcast, the hosts asked listeners whether they knew of any local porn stars. A short time later, they received a text message that read “Ashley Patton Olathe South. 2007.” After a second text also mentioned Patton, Danny Boi said, “Oh, this girl is going to be good, hold on, guys.”
He then said, “Ashley Patton, Olathe South. Let’s Google this chick. This is what I have been waiting for.”
But the Google search actually turned up pornographic images of a different woman named Ashley Payton. The radio show hosts didn’t realize the mistake.
The station later posted a list of names, including Patton’s, on its website and also posted a link to the podcast of the show.
Later that day, after Patton made several calls to station management, it was taken down.
In his closing argument, Riesmeyer noted that the mistake Danny Boi made occurred in less than a second.
“A mistake was made that day, no question about it,” he said. “However, it was an unknowing mistake.”
To award punitive damages, the jury had to find that the company authorized or ratified the actions of the employees and that the actions were willful, wanton or malicious.
Riesmeyer said the fact that the company took action as soon as it was made aware of the mistake showed it did not ratify what was done.
Benson, however, argued that it was part of the company’s business model for the station to provide programming that many would find offensive.
“It’s all about the money,” Benson said. “If they hurt somebody, they will keep doing it unless somebody stands up and fights back.”
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