Former D.A. drops libel suit against cable television station
LOUISIANA–The former district attorney of Terrebonne parish has dropped his defamation suit against HTV, a cable television station, filed after the station aired editorials critical of his handling of a controversy over a videotape of a school bus fight.
Douglas Greenburg filed the suit against the station, its owner, Martin Folse, and news anchor Lonnie Thibodeaux, in January 1996 after the station criticized the former D.A. following the confiscation of a security video tape showing black students beating a white student on a school bus.
The station had obtained the video tape through a routine request submitted to the sheriff’s office. Only minutes before the station was to air the tape during a report on a school board vote for “zero tolerance” of school violence in 1995, two officials from the district attorney’s office arrived at the station with a subpoena issued by Greenburg and confiscated the tape. Greenburg issued the subpoena after recharging one of the youths involved in the beating, Donald Mart. Mart had already pleaded guilty to simple assault and paid a $50 fine through a plea bargain agreement with the district attorney’s office. But after viewing the video, Greenburg decided Mart’s action constituted more than one incident of assault and charged him with aggravated assault.
Greenburg issued the subpoena after discovering the sheriff’s department, which originally had possession of the tape, had turned it over to HTV, unaware that new charges had been filed against Mart and that the tape might be used for evidence.
After the district attorney’s officials took the tape, HTV filed a motion to recover the tape, but more than four months later, the tape still had not been returned. The station then aired editorials critical of Greenburg and his office for not returning the tape.
Greenburg sued HTV, Folse and Thibodeaux for defamation following the editorials.
Greenburg received no money under the settlement. As part of the dismissal agreement, neither party is allowed to comment in detail on the matter, according to the station’s attorney, who added that the station did not issue any apology to Greenburg and did not retract any of its editorials. (Greenburg v. HTV; Media Counsel: Joe Waitz, Jr., Houma, La.)