$1 million suit filed against NBC, others (July 23, 1964)
Friday, May 28, 2004 3:27 AM
July 23, 1964
A lawsuit for $1,000,000 on behalf of Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey has been filed in Chancery Court here, naming Buford W. Posey, the National Broadcasting Company, Richard Valeranni, the Lamar Life Broadcasting Company and the Southern Television Corporation as defendants. The suit was filed by Attorney Laurel Weir on July 18.
The suit stems from an interview of Posey by Richard Valeranni of the National Broadcasting Company and which was televised “on or about July 1, 1964,” and which the suit charges was libelous and slanderous of the sheriff.
The filmed interview was made at the home of Posey’s father here on the Deemer Road during the height of the search for three missing “civil rights” workers.
Soon after the interview Posey left town and went to North Carolina where he was supposedly going to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital there.
A letter from Posey dated July 9, and on stationary of Albert Schweitzer Memorial Hospital, to a local citizen stated, “Am really enjoying my job here. We have no racial problems and no K.K.K. If Mississippians knew how little their state (taken as a whole) is respected by outsiders they would hang their heads in shame.”
Some of the points listed in the suit are as follows:
“On or about July 1, 1964, defendant, Richard Valeranni, who at all times mentioned in this bill of complaint was the agent and servant of National Broadcasting Co., Inc., and acting in the scope of his authority and in furtherance of his master’s business, his master being National Broadcasting Co., Inc., contacted defendant Buford W. Posey in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and made a recording of his voice of about 10 minutes in length and taking his picture on film for use on the news report televised and broadcast on the Huntley-Brinkley 30-minute show. Defendant Valeranni advised defendant National Broadcasting Company, Inc. of the libelous and slanderous matter therein stated, and further advised them about the character and bad reputation of defendant Posey, but said defendant ordered their said agent and servant to proceed with the recording of said voice and the taking of said films in Neshoba County, Miss., for the purposes of televising it to the entire world and throughout the State of Mississippi.
“Defendants further had ample time after the recording and film was made before it was televised and broadcast to investigate the matters alleged and stated by defendant Posey.
“The broadcast and film went on to charge many other falsehoods about complainant and all the statements were false and well known to be false by defendants. The broadcast and film was televised over Television Station operated by Lamar Life Broadcasting Company at Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi, and was seen over the channel operated by said station throughout Neshoba County, Mississippi.
“...Prior to this occasion complainant had enjoyed a good reputation among all who had known or heard of him and defendants falsely and wickedly and maliciously made said false statements with the full intentions to do what it did, injure the good name, fame and reputation of complainant, and with reckless disregard of the truth and complainant’s rights. Indeed, it was a conspiracy on the part of defendants to intimidate complainant in the performance of his official duties as Sheriff of Neshoba County, Mississippi, and was a conspiracy on their part to defame and damage complainant.
“It is libelous and slanderous per se on the part of defendants to falsely charge complainant with having violated the law.”
“Defendants have a true and correct copy of the transcript and recording as a broadcast and of the film as televised and complainant has not, and cannot obtain it from defendants, although they have been requested and demanded to furnish it to complainant and they will not produce it in Court unless they are required to do so by this Court. The exact statement made by defendants is in their exclusive possession and not in that of complainant.
“...Premises considered complainant prays that this bill of complaint will be filed and docketed, legal process as required by law by issued and had for all defendants, commanding them to be and appear before this Honorable Court on the 4th Monday of November, 1964, to plead, answer or demur to this bill of complaint and on final hearing of this cause that this court will grant complainant a judgment against Buford W. Posey, National Broadcasting Co., Inc., Richard Valeranni, and Lamar Life Broadcasting Company, in the sum of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000) together with legal interest and all court costs in this case, and that all defendants will be enjoined from publishing any further slanderous or libelous matters against complainant, and that defendant will be required to produce in court during the trial of this case and file with their answer ahead of the trial a true and correct copy of the film, transcript, recording, and broadcast mentioned........”