WTAE seeks to dismiss defamation lawsuit

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WTAE-TV's parent company fired back late Wednesday at a defamation lawsuit filed by a Fayette County woman who claimed that her photo was mistakenly aired in a story on an alleged kidnapping.

Kathy Bass, 49, sued WTAE over an August 2010 story about charges against her daughter, Kathy Ann Bass, 24. The elder Ms. Bass's photo was run on the newscast, according to the complaint by attorney C.J. Engel.

Attorneys for WTAE's owner, Hearst Stations Inc., transferred the case last week from the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to U.S. District Court.

Attorneys for Hearst wrote that the one-year statute of limitations on defamation claims expired. The delay, Hearst's lawyers wrote in a brief, may stem from "misgivings about pursuing a claim alleging misidentification as an arrestee when she in fact has an arrest history of her own, the offending mug shot of plaintiff was provided to the press by authorities, and the arrestee alleged to be mistaken for plaintiff is ... plaintiff's daughter."

Mr. Engel confirmed that his client was the accused's mother, but said, "that doesn't matter." Also irrelevant, he said, was his client's one-time conviction for disorderly conduct.

The kidnapping charge against the younger Ms. Bass was dropped, but she pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to one to two years in prison.

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