Teen, family sue Sun, 2 TV stations

May 03, 1994|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

A 16-year-old Randallstown High School honor student and his family sued the owners of The Sun and two Baltimore television stations yesterday, saying they were defamed by news reports in January about a shooting at an Owings Mills Mall restaurant where the student was employed.

Antonio Lamar Rice, a popular varsity football player at the school, had left the restaurant with three co-workers before the night supervisor, John M. Newton, was shot in the head during a robbery there, the suit said.

Baltimore County police initially identified Antonio as the prime suspect in the shooting because the victim -- who "had only worked at the Restaurant for about 4 days and was not well acquainted with the Restaurant employees" -- named "Tony" as his assailant, the suit said.

At Randallstown High School the next afternoon, officers showed up and told Antonio he was under arrest for attempted murder and armed robbery, the complaint said.

The suit stated that a police spokesman, "in unofficial conversations with members of the Baltimore news media," identified Tony as the prime suspect, said that he was a juvenile and that he "would be charged as an adult" in the case.

But the reporters were not told that Tony "had been charged," the suit said.

By 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., the complaint said, the county police had "confirmed the validity of Tony's alibi" -- that he drove the three co-workers to their homes and then returned to his own home -- "and determined that he could not have been the person who shot Newton."

News reports by The Sun, WBAL-TV (Channel 11) and WJZ-TV (Channel 13) stated that Antonio had been charged as an adult with attempted murder, robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, and a handgun violation, the suit said.

The reports humiliated the family and have created a lasting suspicion against them and Antonio, according to the suit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court.

The Rice family is seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages for each of the suit's multiple counts.

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