There’s a new legal chill hitting the unscripted cold-case procedural this summer. TNT, Cold Justice producers Wolf Films and Magical Elves and on-air talent Kelly Siegler, Yolanda McClary and Alan Brown are among those who acquitted murder suspect Steven Noffsinger is taking to court over civil rights violations and defamation.
“The defendants’ collective investigations, which occurred in 2014, were an attempt to resurrect a ‘cold case,’ and resulted in an unreasonably reckless disregard for and malicious prosecution of plaintiff in violation of the United States and Ohio Constitutions and state law,” says the seven-claim jury seeking complaint filed on August 7 in federal court in (read it here). The episode of Cold Justice focusing on the December 17, 1981, death of the plaintiff’s ex-wife aired on August 8 last year. It also is available online.
TNT had no response to the lawsuit today when contacted by Deadline. This is the second time TNT and Cold Justice had been sued by a subject of one of their shows in just over a year. Late last August, John Singletary filed for damages over more than $100,000 over Cold Justice and local police re-linking him to a 2010 murder from which he had previously been dismissed over insufficient evidence at the State of Tennessee’s request. That case is still before the courts.
“The production, taken as a whole, leaves the unmistakable impression with the audience that the plaintiff is a killer and, specifically, that he was the perpetrator in the murder of Alma Noffsinger, without ever mentioning that the State of Ohio determined not to pursue the matter with the evidence it had in 1981, which was more than the evidence presented in the production,” said the more recent filing by attorneys Michael Rumer, Victoria Maisch Rumer, Zachary Maisch and Andrea M. Brown of Lima, Ohio firm Rumer & Maisch Co. LLC.
Seeking more than $75,000 in damages in this case, Noffsinger also named Sheriff Jason Landers and two Paulding County deputies as defendants in the matter. Noffsinger was arrested for the murder of his ex-wife on August 1, 2014. After more than 260 days behind bars, he was found not guilty on May 1 this year after a four-day trial.
“The publicity of said television production invaded plaintiff’s privacy by placing plaintiff before the public at large in a false light because the television production contained false and inaccurate statements about plaintiff,” says the complaint of last week. “The false light in which plaintiff was placed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person because it depicted plaintiff as the perpetrator of the homicide of Alma Noffsinger.”
Debuting in September 2013, Cold Justice follows former Texas prosecutor Siegler and ex-crime scene investigator McClary as they work with local police to reopen and solve unresolved cases. Wolf Reality and Magical Elves produce for the series for TNT, with Dick Wolf, Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz, and Tom Thayer serving as EPs. A Cold Justice: Sex Crimes spinoff debuted on July 31 on TNT.