HARRISBURG — The state Superior Court has determined that a former school police supervisor should be able to continue with his defamation suit against a CBS-owned station that reported he was terminated over child sex abuse allegations.
Howard Rubin’s case has now been reversed and remanded after a lower court had all but ended it on the basis he could not prove the station had acted negligently - a related termination letter expressed he had been removed for failing to obey a warning about "fraternizing with minors."
The court issued its opinion on June 13, deciding that the trial court (the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas) wrongly tossed the case over the segment in question. In the opinion, Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton also highlighted that the issue came down to “falsity and fault” and that the lower court's ruling was premature.
"Although the letter acknowledges the existence of allegations against Rubin, it does not state that those allegations were the basis for Rubin's termination as the news report stated," Moulton wrote.
"At this stage of the proceedings, however, without the benefits of pretrial discovery, we cannot say with confidence that Rubin will be unable to establish the falsity of the CBS report."
Rubin's attorney, Matthew Weisberg of Weisberg Law, hailed the legal decision as a form of vindication for his client, adding that it clarified the distinction between "fraternizing with minors" and the insinuation of criminal activity or pedophilia raised by the broadcast.
Eyewitness News anchor Chris May aired the segment during a Sept. 29, 2014, broadcast. He added Rubin had been fired over allegations of child sex abuse with an underage male.
Less than 24 hours later, the station aired another segment in which it was reported that the school's principal had had made station execs aware that a supervisor's contract had not been renewed. At that time, school officials also stressed that the officer involved had never been accused of sexual abuse of children and that the Philadelphia Police Department's Special Victims Unit had no record of any investigation involving a police supervisor.
Days before the segment ever aired, the Legal Intelligencer reported that the principal sent Rubin a termination letter arguing "some serious allegations have been made against you, which are now being investigated by police."
CBS Broadcasting is represented by Michael Berry of the Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz law firm.