Burke files $750M law­suit

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Kirk Mitchell

The brother of JonBenét Ram­sey has filed a law­suit seek­ing $750 mil­lion against CBS Corp., say­ing the broad­cast com­pany pro­duced a fraud­u­lent doc­u­men­tary that slan­dered him by ac­cus­ing him of strik­ing and killing his sis­ter with a flash­light in 1996.

Burke Ram­sey’s law­suit was filed Wed­nes­day in 3rd Cir­cuit Court in Wayne County, Mich., by At­lanta at­tor­ney Lin Wood on Ram­sey’s be­half. It claims CBS slan­dered him dur­ing a prime­time, four-hour doc­u­men­tary Sept. 18 and 19.

The de­fen­dants in the case also in­clude Crit­i­cal Con­tent LLC, a Cal­i­for­nia pro­gram­ming stu­dio; for­mer FBI pro­fil­ers Jim Cle­mente, James Fitzger­ald and Stan­ley Burke; foren­sic ex­pert Laura Richards; for­mer Boul­der dis­trict at­tor­ney’s in­ves­ti­ga­tor A. James Ko­lar; foren­sic sci­en­tist Dr. Werner Spitz; and celebrity patholo-

gist Henry Lee.

The pro­gram, “The Case of: JonBenét Ram­sey,” was re­leased as the 20th an­niver­sary of the 6year-old beauty queen’s death in Boul­der was ap­proach­ing. It was viewed by more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple, the law­suit says.

Ram­sey, who was 9 when his sis­ter was killed, is seek­ing $250 mil­lion in com­pen­satory dam­ages and $500 mil­lion in puni­tive dam­ages. Ram­sey, now 29, lives in Charlevoix, Mich.

“CBS and Crit­i­cal Con­tent know­ingly and in­ten­tion­ally pub­lished false and defam­a­tory state­ments con­vey­ing that Burke killed JonBenét, en­gaged in a crim­i­nal coverup with his par­ents and lied to the po­lice,” the law­suit says.

The law­suit said the doc­u­men­tary was laced with in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing claims that DNA ev­i­dence taken from JonBenét’s un­der­wear and pa­ja­mas was worth­less.

“CBS per­pe­trated a fraud upon the pub­lic — in­stead of be­ing a doc­u­men­tary based on a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a so-called team of ex­perts, ‘The Case of: JonBenét Ram­sey’ was a fic­tional crime show,” the law­suit says.

CBS pro­moted the “fraud­u­lent” se­ries by claim­ing it had as­sem­bled seven in­de­pen­dent “world renowned” in­ves­ti­ga­tors to in­ves­ti­gate the case from scratch. How­ever, the show was based on a “self-pub­lished” book by Ko­lar, “For­eign Fac­tion.” Ko­lar had worked for for­mer Boul­der Dis­trict At­tor­ney Mary Lacy when he took over the Ram­sey in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2005, the law­suit says. It was his first homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it says.

In­stead of as­sem­bling a team of in­de­pen­dent ex­perts, the team gath­ered peo­ple who shared Ko­lar’s the­ory about Burke Ram­sey, the law­suit says. Ko­lar al­ready had met Spitz and Lee while he was writ­ing the book. Ko­lar also had pre­sented his “re­jected” the­ory to Fitzger­ald, a mem­ber of the FBI’s Be­hav­ioral Anal­y­sis Unit in 2006.

Cle­mente and Stan­ley also had worked with Fitzger­ald for the FBI be­hav­ioral unit and are now co-work­ers at a com­pany called X-G Pro­duc­tions LA, which con­sults on and pro­duces fic­tional crime films and TV shows, in­clud­ing “Crim­i­nal Minds,” “The Closer” and “NCIS,” the law­suit says. Although Richards was de­scribed as a crim­i­nal be­hav­ioral an­a­lyst trained by New Scot­land Yard and the FBI, she also works for X-G Pro­duc­tions. De­fen­dants knew be­fore their “com­plete rein­ves­ti­ga­tion” that they would ac­cuse Burke Ram­sey of killing his sis­ter, the law­suit says.

Ko­lar also was touted as a world-renowned crim­i­nal ex­pert in the show, it says. The fact that he wrote “For­eign Fac­tion” was not dis­closed in the se­ries, the law­suit says. Spitz was de­scribed as a foren­sic pathol­o­gist who con­sulted on the as­sas­si­na­tions of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But fed­eral judges have re­ferred to Spitz as “not use­ful or cred­i­ble” and said his opin­ions were “sim­plis­tic and pre­pos­ter­ous,” the law­suit says.

“De­fen­dants knew that the ma­jor­ity of the ... the­o­ries pre­sented in the doc­u­men­tary were taken from ‘For­eign Fac­tion’ and did not, as rep­re­sented to the pub­lic, re­sult from a com­plete rein­ves­ti­ga­tion by new ex­perts,” the law­suit says. “De­fen­dants cre­ated the il­lu­sion of a new real-time rein­ves­ti­ga­tion by us­ing in­di­vid­u­als with law en­force­ment cre­den­tials as ac­tors to play the role of the pseudo-ex­perts and sup­port and act out the ac­cu­sa­tion of Ko­lar’s book and the ba­sis sup­port­ing its ac­cu­sa­tion.”

Ko­lar’s the­ory that Burke Ram­sey killed his sis­ter was viewed as early as 2006 by mem­bers of Lacy’s of­fice as “lu­di­crous,” “to­tal smoke and mir­rors” and “spec­u­la­tion based on hearsay,” the law­suit says. His em­ploy­ment at the of­fice ended shortly af­ter his pre­sen­ta­tion of the the­ory in 2006, the law­suit says.

“No ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing Burke’s in­volve­ment in JonBenét’s death has ever been dis­cov­ered and, be­cause he is in­no­cent, does not ex­ist,” the law­suit says. “As far back as 1998, law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties re­spon­si­ble for the JonBenét Ram­sey mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion have re­peat­edly, pub­licly and un­equiv­o­cally cleared Burke Ram­sey of any in­volve­ment in the death of his sis­ter.”

The law­suit says Burke Ram­sey has no prior his­tory of crim­i­nal con­duct, sex­ual abuse, drug abuse, al­co­hol abuse or any type of vi­o­lent be­hav­ior. It says while Burke was sleep­ing at his home in the early hours of Dec. 26, 1996, his sis­ter was “bru­tally tor­tured, sex­u­ally as­saulted and mur­dered.”

The CBS pro­gram iden­ti­fied Burke Ram­sey as his sis­ter’s killer de­spite a long his­tory of de­tec­tives and pros­e­cu­tors in the case mak­ing pub­lic dis­clo­sures that he was never a sus­pect, the law­suit says.

“There was no ev­i­dence de­vel­oped prior to or dur­ing the law en­force­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in any way links Burke to the killing of his sis­ter or that caused the Boul­der PD or the Boul­der DA to con­sider him a sus­pect in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of her mur­der,” the law­suit says.

The CBS doc­u­men­tary fol­lowed ear­lier re­ports by the su­per­mar­ket tabloids Star and Globe and the New York Post that spec­u­lated Burke Ram­sey was the killer. The Globe had re­ported that af­ter show­ing signs of dis­tur­bance in­clud­ing that he “smeared fe­ces in his bath­room” the “squir­rely” child killed his sis­ter. On his be­half, Ram­sey’s par­ents sued the Globe, the Star and the New York Post in 1999 and 2000 for li­bel. He later re­ceived set­tle­ments in each of the law­suits, the law­suit says.

CBS spokesman Dustin Smith de­clined to com­ment on the law­suit, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

The law­suit says Burke Ram­sey is a pri­vate cit­i­zen and has never at­tained the sta­tus of a pub­lic fig­ure, which is rel­e­vant in a slan­der claim.

Af­ter decades of si­lence, Burke Ram­sey came for­ward only this year af­ter he learned CBS was work­ing on a doc­u­men­tary that iden­ti­fies him as a sus­pect in his sis­ter’s death. He granted one in­ter­view to Dr. Phil McGraw from the “Dr. Phil” show.

The law­suit in­cludes a long list of facts that dis­pute the the­ory that any mem­ber of the fam­ily was in­volved in the mur­der, in­clud­ing DNA from an uniden­ti­fied male found un­der JonBenét’s fin­ger­nails and on the crotch of her un­der­wear. Although the CBS pro­gram in­di­cated JonBenét’s death was caused by the flash­light strike, the au­topsy re­port said the cause of death was as­phyxia by stran­gu­la­tion with the gar­rote as­so­ci­ated with cran­io­cere­bral trauma, the law­suit says.

The law­suit says there were fin­ger­nail abra­sions and scrapes near where the gar­rote was em­bed­ded in JonBenét’s neck, in­di­cat­ing that she was strug­gling with her at­tacker, the law­suit says. Wood frag­ments from a paint­brush used to cre­ate the gar­rote were found in JonBenét’s vagina, it says. Her hy­men was in­jured dur­ing the sex­ual as­sault, caus­ing her to bleed onto her un­der­wear.

The law­suit quotes the foren­sic ex­perts who ap­peared in the CBS doc­u­men­tary in­clud­ing Cle­mente as telling var­i­ous news­pa­per re­porters that the show reaches a con­clu­sion about who killed JonBenét. Cle­mente was quoted by The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald as say­ing it “ex­plains who did what to whom and when and how.” Fitzger­ald pro­claimed, “we solved it,” dur­ing a pro­mo­tional campaign, the law­suit says.

The law­suit says CBS CEO Les­lie Moonves and Glenn Geller, pres­i­dent of CBS En­ter­tain­ment, were pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity to re­view a large notebook of ex­cul­pa­tory in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing Burke Ram­sey be­fore air­ing the doc­u­men­tary, but they de­clined.

On Oct. 6, Burke Ram­sey filed a sep­a­rate $150 mil­lion law­suit in the 3rd Cir­cuit Court in Michi­gan against foren­sic pathol­o­gist Spitz, who was also an ex­pert for CBS. The law­suit cited state­ments Spitz made in a Sept. 19 CBS Detroit ra­dio pro­gram that also were used in the CBS TV minis­eries.

Burke Ram­sey is su­ing CBS, claim­ing that it slan­dered him in a doc­u­men­tary about the slay­ing of his sis­ter.

Ellen Jaskol, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post

John and Patsy Ram­sey sit with their son, Burke, on their back porch at their home in Charlevoix, Mich., in Au­gust 1997.

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