A federal lawsuit filed in Colorado last week alleges that a Denver NBC station and its employees sexually exploited a 14-year-old boy by broadcasting a picture of his erect penis during a February 2014 news report that also identified the teen by name.
The station, KOAA TV, aired footage of the boy’s erect penis during a news report that was put together after his father’s girlfriend approached producers about an alleged blackmail attempt, according to a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court.
Producers were told on Feb. 24 by the woman that someone had tried to blackmail the teen, now 16, using sexually explicit material. That same day they arrived at the family house in Pueblo, Colorado to investigate the claims and interview the boy’s father, Elijah Holden. While on assignment, the suit alleges that the news team collected screenshots from the teen’s Facebook page, as well as images from the YouTube page where the blackmail video had been uploaded, to be used in their coverage.
The plaintiff and his father both asked that the name “be kept confidential through any report presented by Defendant KOAA,” attorney Matthew Schneider said in the filing.
Nevertheless, the suit alleges that when KOAA broadcast a report on the incident later that night, they did anything but protect the boy’s identity.
“KOAA aired the thumbnail image of the Youtube video depicting Plaintiff’s erect penis and his name as a part of the story,” the suit alleges, as well as an unedited of his Facebook page that showed his family and friends.
The Holdens are now suing KOAA, NBC Universal, Comcast, and six employees for sexual exploitation of a child, invasion of privacy, negligence, defamation, extreme conduct and civil conspiracy. They’re seeking a jury trial and at least $1 million.
“Through a series of stories during the last several years, KOAA has informed its viewers about the dangers of sexting and cell phone security,” KOAA president and general manager Evan Pappas said in a statement to Courthouse News, where the suit was first reported on Tuesday this week. “At the specific request of the victim’s father, we ran a story two years ago about his son being blackmailed over a cellphone video.”
“While we are unable to discuss the specifics of this recently filed litigation, we will defend ourselves against unfounded accusations,” he said.
Attempts to reach an attorney for the plaintiff’s attorney on Wednesday were not immediately successful.