Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cops Sue Chicago Sun Times Over Publishing Photo LIneups

Deutsch: Logo der Chicago Sun-TimesImage via WikipediaIn a seven-page complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, five police officers have sued The Chicago Sun-Times for publishing photo lineups that depicted the officers and included personal information gleaned from the Secretary of State's motor vehicle records.

The complaint, Scott Dahlstrom, Hugh Gallagly, Peter Kelly, Robert Shea & Emmet Welch v. Sun-Times Media LLC d/b/a Chicago Sun-Times (Case No. 12-cv-00658), alleges the defendant violated the Drivers Privacy Protection Act ("DPPA") [18 U.S.C. secs. 2721-2725] by including information, such as the officers' birthdates, height, weight, hair color and eye color, in a story that included photo lineups of the plaintiffs along with Richard J. Vanecko, nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who was accused of striking David Koschman on April 25,2004, according to an account in The Chicago Tribune. Koschman died from brain injuries less than two weeks later. Vanecko was not charged in his death.

Police routinely participate in "perp lineups" standing alongside suspects whom witnesses are asked to identify. The complaint claims the plaintiffs are fearful for their safety because of the defendant's publishing their photos and personal data. Section 2722(a) of the DPPA makes it "unlawful for any person knowingly to obtain or disclose personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for any use not permitted under section 2721(b)" of the Act.

The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief to remove identifying details and personal information from the defendant's publications, along with attorneys' fees, actual damages of at least $2,500 per officer as statutorily prescribed, and punitive damages. The Tribune reported that the Fraternal Order of Police last November unsuccessfully attempted in Cook County Circuit Court to prevent the Sun-Times online edition to continue publishing the five officers' personal information. That case has since been dismissed.
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