Reporter wins malicious prosecution suit; jury awards $550,000
CALIFORNIA — A Superior Court jury in Los Angeles awarded $550,000 in late August to a journalist who lost his helicopter pilot’s license after a city firefighter accused him of interfering with rescues.
Bob Tur, a broadcast journalist made famous by his helicopter coverage of the Los Angeles riots, sued the fire department for malicious prosecution after it filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration alleging that his lights and the downdraft from his helicopter obstructed rescues.
The department, led by helicopter pilot Anthony Quinn, filed its complaints against Tur with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is required to investigate all complaints.
The FAA revoked Tur’s license after a 1991 complaint alleging that he interfered in the rescue of a man from the Los Angeles Harbor and a 1988 complaint that he allegedly interfered with the air transport of a wounded police officer after a street shooting.
Evidence later showed that Tur did not interfere with the shooting rescue because no shooting took place, but his license has not been restored.
“The jury felt they [the fire department] just wanted to shut me up,” Tur said, noting that he was doing several investigative reports on the alleged misuse of funds and helicopters at the fire department. Tur is the owner of the L.A. News Service.
Deputy City Attorney George Lomeli, who represented the fire department, could not be reached for comment on whether there will be an appeal.
Tur said that while he asked for $22.5 million, he was pleased with the $550,000 jury award, although he is not sure when, if ever, he will get his license reinstated.
“The FAA had a responsibility to the public, themselves, and me to investigate this matter. They didn’t,” Tur said.
Tur said he plans to sue the FAA for perjury, fraud, and violating his civil rights. (Tur v. City of Los Angeles; Media Counsel: William A. Bergen, Los Angeles)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.