MONROE, La. — The widow of a man who killed himself after KNOE-TV reported that he was under investigation for sexual misconduct has filed a lawsuit claiming the program was responsible for her husband's death.
In papers filed in 4th Judicial District Court this month, Kathy Denise Johnston seeks damages for defamation and unlawful death in the suicide of Samuel Johnston.
On April 23, KNOE aired a news story that a 20-year-old female student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, where Johnston worked, had contacted law enforcement, claiming Johnston sexually assaulted her. Both the alleged victim and her mother were interviewed for the story.
Johnston, who had been a riverboat captain before he went blind from macular degeneration, was an apartment manager at the center.
According to the lawsuit, the Ruston Police Department asked KNOE not to run the story right away because the investigation was in its initial stages and the woman's story contained inconsistencies.
Johnston had been interviewed by police and gave a DNA sample, which the suit claims did not match evidence taken from the reported crime scene, which actually did not reveal any male DNA present.
After the story aired, Johnston hanged himself at his home in West Monroe.
Attorney William McNew, who represents KNOE, said the station accurately reported that there was a police investigation into the allegations. He expressed sympathy for the Johnston family on behalf of KNOE and said they would address the family's claim that KNOE was responsible for Johnston's death in court.