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Judge Rules in Favor of AP

August 3, 2000

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A federal judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of The Associated Press in a lawsuit brought by former state legislator Craig Peterson for mistakenly identifying him as an Olympic official.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball granted the AP’s request for summary judgment.

On Feb. 9, 1999, the news cooperative sent out a photograph of Peterson in which he was incorrectly identified as a former Salt Lake City bid committee financial officer who shares the same first and last name.

The mistake was corrected the next day, but the mixed-up photo appeared in The New York Times. Peterson originally sued the Times, but that suit was withdrawn and the AP was substituted as a defendant.

The publication of the mistake prompted Peterson’s claims that the error caused him ``personal humiliation, anxiety, shame, mortification and mental anguish and suffering.″

Attorneys for the AP argued that the lawsuit did not meet the basic standards for libel.

Peterson’s attorney, Roger Hole, who is on vacation, could not be reached for comment. A message left for Peterson was not immediately returned.

AP attorney Randy Dryer said although it was an unfortunate error, the judge made the right decision because Peterson is a public figure.

``It was just a simple mistake and, as the judge determined, Mr. Peterson is a public figure,″ Dryer said. ``The law allows the press to make innocent mistakes without being punished. The AP regretted the mistake, but those things happen under deadline pressure.″

Peterson served 12 years in the state Legislature, including four years as the Senate’s majority leader.

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