ODESSA, Texas — A state appeals court has thrown out a libel lawsuit filed by a man police falsely identified as a sex offender against two news organizations.
Jose Spencer Sotelo, who is not a sex offender, sued KWES-TV and the Odessa American after they reported he was one. They based their reports on information that authorities had provided.
The 11th Court of Appeals on June 15 threw out the suit against KWES-TV, the Odessa American and American staff writer David J. Lee.
In April 2005, Odessa police sent out a news release indicating that two men were arrested in relation with a sex-offender registration-compliance sweep. Using information from the news release, both outlets reported on the arrests.
Both companies claimed their reports were a fair representation of the information given by police.
The appeals court, relying on a First Amendment doctrine known as the "fair report privilege," agreed with the news media defendants.
In effect, the doctrine offers some protection to news outlets if their report is factually consistent with information from a government entity.