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A New Low? NYT Columnist/Survivor Sued Over MidAir Reports... For Moral Damages

'Only Amends Will Restore The Widow's Dignity'

News and Analysis By Jim Campbell, Editor-In-Chief (But Please Don't Sue Me...)

One of my favorite authors of all time, Robert Heinlein, wrote of a fictional historical period in which anything goes... he called it the "Crazy Years."

Folks... welcome to the Crazy Years.

At a time when there seems to be no end to the types of litigation that might be waged around the world for all manner of slights, real and imagined, we seem to have hit a new low. According to press releases issued by an organization alleging to represent the victims of a tragic Brazilian 737 crash, respected NYT Columnist Joe Sharkey is being sued for his reporting of a midair collision in which he had an unusual and intimate view... having been in one of the aircraft (an Embraer Legacy 600, shown below) that was involved -- and the only one to have made it to the ground without fatal result.

The indemnification lawsuit was brought against US Journalist Joseph M. Sharkey by Rosane Gutjhar, the widow of one of the GOL flight 1907 crash victims.

According to the release received by ANN, "The Association of Relatives and Friends of Gol's Flight 1907 Victims reports that Rosane Gutjhar, the widow of Rolf Ferdinando Gutjhar, one of the victims of Flight 1907, which went down on September 29, 2006, is bringing a lawsuit against US journalist Joseph M. Sharkey seeking compensation for moral damages."

The press release goes on to state that, "The lawsuit is of concern to the association, which was founded after the accident between Gol's Boeing 737 and a Legacy jet, with the purpose of providing support to the relatives of the victims as well as supervising the investigations on the second largest aerial accident in Brazil's history, which carried a death toll of 154 people in the state of Mato Grosso."

The victims group asserts that, "On board the Legacy jet, which collided with Boeing 737-800 belonging to Gol Linhas Aéreas airline, he published articles in his internet blog so as to push his country to prevent the Legacy jet pilots from returning to Brazil, and used language which was, according to Rosane, offensive against all victims' families and Brazilians. To Gutjhar's lawyer, that fact, in itself, would not be reproachable, but the journalist launched personal attacks against Brazil's President, air traffic controllers and other notorious individuals and, repeatedly and piercingly, started offending Brazilians indiscriminately, as explained by Oscar Fleischfresser, one of the lawyers responsible for the lawsuit."

According to the lawyer, 'besides tragically losing her husband, Rosane Gutjhar feels she is being discriminated against by the treatment offered to the American defendants in the criminal case underway in Brazil and in addition, together with other Brazilians, she was publicly attacked by Joseph Sharkey.'

"Nothing can justify the words he used against all Brazilians. All I want from him is to take it all back," says Rosane. "Only amends will restore the widow's dignity," states her lawyer.

In the civil suit filed at the 18th Civil Court of Curitiba, it is suggested as a reference for compensation for moral damages an amount similar to the one that would be awarded should the journalist be convicted in his own country. "That would be a means to effectively prevent this type of behavior. Another request is that a court order be issued for the journalist to apologize to all Brazilian citizens, in the same media used by him," concludes Fleischfresser.

ANN has contacted Mr. Sharkey and the New York Times for their reaction. You can be sure we'll have more on this story...

FMI: http://joesharkeyat.blogspot.com/, www.nytimes.com

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