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Lawsuit: Newspaper Erred Identity

October 2, 2002

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CINCINNATI (AP) _ A $35 million lawsuit accuses The Cincinnati Enquirer and others of defaming a Florida police chief’s family by mistakenly identifying a convicted drug dealer as his son.

The suit filed Monday also names as defendants the city, its police department and a reporter. It seeks to obtain the newspaper’s source for the information, and police procedure for providing public information about arrests.

The newspaper reported Saturday that the brother of Timothy Thomas, the unarmed black man whose fatal shooting sparked Cincinnati’s 2001 race riots, was arrested last week.

The Enquirer also reported that a man with Terry Thomas, Deangelo Williams, 24, was a convicted drug dealer and was arrested for illegal possession of a weapons.

The story identified Williams as the son of former Cincinnati policeman Clarence Williams III, now police chief in Riviera Beach, Fla.

The suit says the chief’s son, whose name is Clarence Williams IV, is ``attending college on the campus of Alabama A&M, where he maintains a 4.0 grade average.″

Harry M. Whipple, president and publisher of the Enquirer, said the paper is aware of the suit, and ``we will respond accordingly.″

Robert Johnstone, a deputy city solicitor, said Tuesday that the city had not received a copy of the lawsuit.

Kenneth Lawson, lawyer for the Williams family, asked in the suit whether the Fraternal Order of Police union might have leaked incorrect information to the reporter, Jane Prendergast, for political reasons.

According to the suit, the union opposes a measure approved by voters last fall that allows Cincinnati to look outside city police ranks for assistant chiefs and chiefs.

The suit states Williams would be an ``excellent″ candidate to fill a recent assistant chief’s opening.

Roger Webster, president of the FOP chapter that represents Cincinnati officers, said he did not know where the reporter got the information.

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