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Fake news Facebook post results in libel suit

A Charleroi man filed suit in Washington County Court over a fake news story about his arrest for "lewd and lascivious" conduct that was posted and shared on Facebook.

Associated Press In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. Facebook says it is tweaking the formulas that decide what users see in their news feeds to focus on friends and family, not news articles and other more impersonal material. ItþÄôs not the first such change the company has made over the years, and likely wonþÄôt be the last. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A Charleroi resident filed a complaint in Washington County Court this week about a made-up story that claimed he had been arrested by his local police department for committing “a lewd and lascivious act on a black male” that irrevocably ruined his reputation.

Robert J. Thorpe of McKean Avenue Sept. 7 sued Joseph Pager of 1107 Leeds Ave., Monessen, whom he accuses of creating the false story July 25; Facebook friends of Pager, including Washington County Deputy Sheriff Jerry Jericho, a recent Charleroi councilman of Woodlawn Avenue; the plaintiff’s sister-in-law, Teddi Thorpe of Shady Avenue, Charleroi, with whom he is not on speaking terms; and hundreds, if not thousands of “unknown defendants” among Facebook subscribers who shared information that was wrong.

“It is yet unknown if other individuals re-posted” what Pager placed on Facebook or if someone aided Pager in creating the false news article, but the court filing claims Teddi Thorpe and Jericho failed to verify the information before sharing it and also added derogatory remarks about Robert J. Thorpe in their reposting.

Robert Thorpe’s complaint states the article was made up to injure his character and reputation throughout Charleroi and the Mon Valley “to bring him into disrepute with the public” and embarrass him. Since it was disseminated, Thorpe claims he has received many phone calls, some harassing and others questioning his character. He has also received inquiries about the veracity of the story. Thorpe, who describes himself as a disabled individual, said he is seeing a physician for treatment of depression and high blood pressure.

“The false news article was so flagrant that members of (Robert Thorpe’s) own family do not wish to speak to him,” his attorney, Clark A. Mitchell, wrote in the complaint, adding no amount of money can repair the damage and harm to Robert Thorpe and his family. Thorpe requested a jury trial, damages in excess of $50,000, costs, plus interest and attorney’s fees from all defendants.