A former football player with the Miami Dolphins has accused the Miami Herald Media Co. as well as the McClatchy Co. of intentionally inflicting emotional distress as well as printing false information pertaining to his prior run-ins with the law.
Filing as a pro se litigant, Dimitri Patterson entered a complaint against the newspaper and its owner in the Middle District of Florida on May 3. The case, which was transferred to the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday, contends the Miami Herald attempted ”to assassinate” Patterson’s character in three articles published about the plaintiff between August 2017 and May 2018.
“The articles are false and defamatory in their overall portrayal of DP as a violent, impulsive, unstable, heartless, cruel person who is abusive to women and children, and fugitive evading felony charges,” the complaint said.
The stories reported Lawson attempted to run from the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center after he was ordered to be placed in custody by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Altfield in August 2017. According to an article authored by Miami Herald writer Charles Rabin, the plaintiff injured two police officers in the ensuing scuffle.
A subsequent May 8, 2018, story reported Patterson had been arrested by Orange County law enforcement officers. He was detained under an active felony warrant for battery and culpable negligence issued against him in Miami-Dade County.
The suit repeatedly categorizes assertions made in the articles as false. “DP never injured any police officers while running out of a courtroom at the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse in downtown Miami, nor did a Judge order for him to be taken into custody,” the complaint states. “There are cameras outside and inside the courtroom, which supports this and there are no official judicial proceedings or documentations that exists of a judge holding DP in contempt of court.”
The complaint adds, “DP was never legally acquitted of battery and culpable negligence by a jury in July, because he was never legally charged with those two crimes. You cannot acquit a person of a crime that they were never charged with pursuant to Florida law.”
Read the lawsuit:
Patterson’s legal action seeks a $300 million judgment against the defendants and requests that the offending articles be removed “from www.miamiherald.com and all online search engines worldwide for eternity.”
Rick Hirsch, the Miami Herald’s managing editor, stood by the paper’s reporting.
“This is a lawsuit without any merit whatsoever,” he said in a statement to the Daily Business Review. “Our stories accurately reflect Mr. Patterson’s arrests.”
McClatchy’s PR director Jeanne Segal said the company had no comment on the suit.
This is not the first time Patterson has represented himself in a lawsuit against the Miami Herald or other high-profile defendants. In December 2018, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. dismissed the plaintiff’s suit against the Miami Herald Media Co. without prejudice after Patterson failed to file a timely response. Dalton found the case “is due to be dismissed without prejudice for failure to prosecute.” Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott was among the parties also sued by the former Dolphins cornerback for failing “to take care that the laws are faithfully executed” and depriving Patterson of his constitutional rights.
Dalton dismissed the suit against Scott in September 2018 and held the “claims against Governor Scott cannot proceed, nor can [Patterson's] claim for a preliminary injunction because he has no likelihood of success on the merits.”
Patterson did not return requests for comment by press time.