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Newspaper claims libel against author of phony article

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  1. Libel and Privacy
An online sports hoax bashing the Oklahoma Sooners has Nebraska football fan James W. Conradt in hot water with the…

An online sports hoax bashing the Oklahoma Sooners has Nebraska football fan James W. Conradt in hot water with the publisher of the state’s largest newspaper and one of its sportswriters, according to The Associated Press.

Conradt, who works as an IT manager for the University of Texas, allegedly used a template from The Oklahoman newspaper website to post a fake news story online under sportswriter Jake Trotter’s byline. Now, the AP reports, Conradt is the subject of a libel lawsuit.

The bogus article, reportedly posted July 9 on Conradt’s own website, said Oklahoma University quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Landry Jones had been arrested for intent to distribute cocaine. Five days later, on Monday, Trotter and The Oklahoma Publishing Co. filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Oklahoma City accusing Conradt of libel, copyright violations and trademark infringements.

They argue that Conradt attempted to legitimize the article by using Trotter’s name and the publisher’s trademark and, in doing so, damaged their reputation, the AP reports. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an order that Conradt publish “corrective advertising."           

Conradt’s website, www.darthhusker.com, has been taken down and replaced by a message saying the story was intended to be a joke. In an interview with The Oklahoman last week, Conradt apologized to the families, telling the paper he hadn’t meant to hurt anyone.