Joyce McKinney, subject of Errol Morris’ documentary Tabloid, has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the filmmaker and other individuals and associated companies such as Moxie Films, Sundance Select and IFC Films. McKinney alleges among other things misappropriation of likeness, defamation, misrepresentation, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract. McKinney asserts in the suit that she was approached in 2009 and led to believe that her cooperation in a project for a Showtime series would help clear her name in connection with a long-ago scandal. Instead, she claims, the resulting movie held her up to public ridicule and reinforced a false image of her as having kidnapped a Morman missionary in England in 1977 and holding him against his will and repeatedly raping him. She was arrested and British tabloids and TV had a field day with what became known as the “Manacled Mormon” story. McKinney maintains that she was rescuing her fiance from a cult.
In an effort to gain access to photographs, home movies and other memorabilia, the suit claims, representatives of Morris including a person identified as Ajae Clearway and Mark Lipson repeatedly badgered her and tricked her into letting them carry away plastic bins full of newspaper clippings and other material that Morris was allegedly going to peruse for images he could use in the documentary — which plaintiff maintains she had been falsely led to believe would be part of a Showtime series. Additionally McKinney alleges that during the course of her interactions with people associated with making the movie, Lipson agreed to help save her service dog that was scheduled to be put to death at a pound but instead allowed it to happen then taunted her about it.
In November 2010, McKinney says in the suit she traveled to New York to the Doc NYC festival to see the film that Morris had made. Afterward she became distressed at “having been deceived” about how she would be depicted, the movie’s revival of the “Manacled Mormon” story and use of personal memorabilia she claims was stolen as well as many purportedly false and negative statements and portrayals in Tabloid. McKinney is seeking unspecified compensatory, punitive and other damages as well as civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and court costs.