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Defamation verdict against TV station overturned

By The Associated Press
10.28.03

MINNEAPOLIS — A Hennepin County judge overturned a $110,000 verdict for a St. Cloud police officer who claimed he was defamed in a KARE-TV report.

District Judge Gary Larson said Officer Thomas Schlieman failed to prove that the news report by Dennis Stauffer was done with actual malice.

The case involved the May 11, 1999, shooting death of Kevin Hartwig by Schlieman. Stauffer reported two people who said they witnessed the shooting had said that Hartwig wasn't being aggressive.

Larson's ruling last week overturned a Hennepin County jury's findings from July. To show actual malice, Schlieman had to prove that Stauffer and KARE knew the statement was false or that they recklessly disregarded whether the statement was true or false.

"We feel vindicated," said John Remes, president and general manager of KARE. "We take our journalistic role very seriously and the station and our company never wavered in our belief that we had reported the facts of the story fairly."

Benton County Attorney Michael Jesse concluded that Schlieman used reasonable and necessary force in the shooting.

Hartwig was shot in the chest after he came outside his home with a knife sticking out of his chest, a wound police said was self-inflicted. Police told him to leave the knife in his chest, but he pulled it out and charged the officers.


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