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Jewell sues newspapers, former employer for libel

headline January 28, 1997
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EST

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Attorneys for Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered the bomb that exploded during the Summer Olympics then became a suspect in the case, filed a libel lawsuit Tuesday against the publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Piedmont College, his former employer.

Jewell's attorneys also announced they had reached a settlement with CNN over his claims that the news network had invaded his privacy and his mother's while covering the aftermath of the bombing.

The settlement included what a Cable News Network spokesman called a "financial component," but the amount was not disclosed.

The lawsuit against Cox Enterprises, owner of the Atlanta newspapers, names 10 editors and reporters, including the two who wrote the July 30 front-page article naming Jewell as a suspect in the bombing. The lawsuit was filed in Fulton County Superior Court.

Also named in the suit is Piedmont College, Jewell's former employer, located in Demorest, Georgia, Piedmont College President Raymond Cleere and college spokesman Scott Rawles.


Jewell's attorneys contend Cleere called the FBI and spoke to the Atlanta newspapers, providing them with false information on Jewell and his employment there as a security guard.

Referring to the lawsuit, Jewell attorney Lin Wood said "It's about money, permanent and significant damages. It's also about accountability on the part of the government and the media."

Wood said a suit may also be filed against the FBI, and possibly some of its agents, depending on the outcome of an investigation by the Justice Department.

Jewell already had reached an out-of-court settlement with NBC. The Wall Street Journal reported that Jewell received $500,000 in that settlement, but there has been no confirmation of the figure.


Jewell: violations of privacy

The 34-year-old Jewell was on duty as a security guard at Centennial Olympic Park, when he spotted an unattended knapsack. He alerted police, who were moving spectators away from the area when it exploded.

Within days, investigators questioned Jewell, searched the apartment he shared with his mother and turned his apartment complex into the focal point of media attention. Even after passing a lie detector test, Jewell lamented that his name was ruined.

Jewell's attorneys contended that CNN violated Georgia's privacy laws by posting a camera and a surveillance car outside the family apartment for about a month after a federal search of the residence on July 31.

Of the settlement with CNN, Wood said Tuesday, "We have reached a settlement with CNN. The amount of the settlement is both confidential and, under the terms of the agreement, cannot be characterized, except for me to tell you that it was a monetary payment to Barbara Jewell, the mother, and Richard Jewell."

"As with NBC, I think it's a safe assumption that both sides are again in this instance mutually satisfied with the settlement," the attorney added.

CNN responds

CNN released a statement Tuesday that said:

"Cable News Network Inc. and Richard and Barbara Jewell are pleased that they have been able to amicably resolve all issues between them.

"CNN continues to believe that its coverage was a fair and accurate review of the events that unfolded following the Centennial Olympic Park explosion. The Jewells, while not agreeing to the fairness and accuracy of all portions of CNN's coverage, understand CNN's efforts to cover events such as the Centennial Olympic Park explosion.

"As part of this settlement, the parties have agreed to refrain from disclosing any terms of the settlement agreement except as stated herein. The parties are mutually satisfied with the settlement."


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