PHILADELPHIA - The placement of a Philadelphia firefighter's photograph to illustrate a
New York newspaper's online article about an alleged sex scandal in the department falsely implicated the firefighter's involvement in the scandal, according to a libel suit filed earlier this month at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Francis Cheney II, of Philadelphia, seeks compensatory and punitive damages on three counts against the New York Daily News Company - including invasion of privacy, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress - for an article published on its website on Jan. 29.
According to the complaint, the story, titled "Heated Sex Scandal Surrounds Philadelphia Fire Department: 'It's Bad Stuff,'" featured below the headline and above the article an image of Cheney dressed in uniform and captioned by name. The article reported allegations that members of the Philadelphia Fire Department engaged in sexual activity with a paramedic and that charges may be filed.
A follow-up story published the next day described the incidents in more detail, which involved accusations of sexual abuse and degradation of a non-consenting city employee, including allegations that the paramedic was "naked and barking like a dog, being paraded around in what appeared to be a Philly fire station on a leash."
Cheney argues that use of his photo in the first article falsely implicated him as a participant in the alleged behavior and has placed him in a bad light with his friends, family and colleagues.
The claim says that the photo used was taken during a 9/11 ceremony and had no connection to the headline or story concerning the sex scandal. It has since been replaced with the image of a fire department badge.
However, the article with the photo has been copied and re-published on other websites, the complaint says, and there has been no retraction from the New York Daily News or attempt to have the image removed from third party sites. Cheney says he has been flooded with messages concerning the statements and his reputation as a decorated firefighter has been maliciously damaged by the newspaper.
"As a result of such false publication," the complaint says, "[Cheney], a decorated firefighter and committed public servant has been unfairly brought into scandal and reproach, and has been held up to odium, scorn and contempt."
The plaintiff is represented by Gonen Haklay and James Goslee of Cohen, Placitella & Roth in Philadelphia.
The case ID is 150201457.