Calling a New York Times video " 'fake news’ in every sense of the phrase,” Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against the newspaper and several people involved in the production of the video, claiming it libeled him and his office.
The Times this month published a video op-ed on its website in which a man named Rodney Roussell discusses his alleged rape in prison while serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted of check fraud.
In addition to the newspaper and Roussell, the lawsuit also names Jonah Kessel, Taige Jensen, Japhey Weeks and Leah Varjacques as defendants.
Kessel, the lawsuit says, was the director of photography for the video. Jensen is listed as the editor, while Varjacques and Weeks are identified as producers.
The video, titled "The Rape Jokes We Still Laugh At," was shot outside of Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office buildings and includes imagery of the OPSO badge, which includes Gusman’s name.
“In reality, the alleged incident occurred while he was serving a prison sentence in Union Parish, Louisiana, five hours away from Orleans, as Mr. Roussell alleged in the federal lawsuit he filed about this incident,” OPSO attorney Blake Arcuri said in a statement released Friday evening.
“Rodney Roussell had not been incarcerated in an Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office facility since 2007,” the lawsuit reads.
The OPSO has seen countless stories in recent years that have reported on issues within the jail as it struggles to meet demands of a federal consent decree. Arcuri said the Times video only hinders any progress the office has made and has a “significant impact” on the ability to hire and keep staff.
“While this agency has been dealt its fair share of negative media publicity in the past several years, we will not tolerate fake news attacks by the New York Times or any other outlet,” Arcuri said. “We will aggressively pursue all damages and injunctive relief to resolve this issue in the OPSO’s favor.”