And now the rest of the story…
If all you knew about the lawsuit former KU law school grad Ashley Patton filed against Entercom Kansas City two years ago after morning show personalities on 96.5 The Buzz misidentified her as a porn star and a jury granted her a million dollar award, you’d be missing key parts of the story.
That’s because the “reporting” has been so minimal that most locals are scratching their heads, wondering how a simple case of mistaken identity could result in six-figure legal fees and a $1 million damage verdict against Entercom.
What’s more, nobody even got fired!
The guilty parties in this on-air misadventure are Buzz morning show host Afentra Bandokoudis, aka “Afentra,” and sidekick Daniel Terreros, aka “Danny Boi.”
Now let’s cut to the chase…
While most of the blame has been centered on Danny Boi for blowing a simple Google name search, make no mistake, to Patton, her attorney and the jury’s way of thinking Afentra was just as guilty for her role in the lowbrow, trash talking that lead up to Patton being called out as a porn star.
“The court made us prove reckless behavior by the corporation,” says Patton’s attorney Arthur Benson. (Entercom’s) entire defense was that it was a simple human mistake, not reckless behavior. The jury did not buy that. Danny Boi Googled Ms. Patton’s name and got ‘no results.’ Google suggested instead: ‘Did you mean Ashley Payton’ and Danny kept clicking right through that Stop sign.
“He got a list of (Payton’s) links. Then he clicked again on one of those links and saw a man having sex with a woman with his hands on her neck. Danny, whose listeners knew he had been doing Google ‘fact checks’ all morning, then said on air, ‘Don’t choke her, Jesus,’ further confirming for the listeners that he was looking at Ms. Patton, whom Afentra had also confirmed by referring to her as ‘this Olathe girl’ while Danny Googled. The jury unanimously found that to be reckless behavior, especially since Afentra and Danny Boi had been told about false light invasion of privacy but the corporation had not trained them or their supervisor on how to avoid false light invasion of privacy.”
For the uninitiated, Reporter’s Committee, a nonprofit association that provides legal advice to journalists, describes false light invasion of privacy as occurring “when information is published about a person that is false or places the person in a false light, is highly offensive to a reasonable person, and is published (broadcast) with knowledge or in reckless disregard of whether the information was false or would place the person in a false light.”
The second tenet of Patton’s lawsuit alleged that Entercom was guilty of “negligent supervision” of The Buzz hosts, leaving them free to level raunchy, untrue and uncorroborated assertions and insinuations.
Therein lies a key to understanding the reasoning behind the $750,000 in punitive damages awarded to Patton by the jury.
Because rather than viewing Patton’s unfortunate free fall into the Buzz morning show’s crosshairs as an isolated slip, the porn star banter appeared to be a typical example of the crude, obscene behavior practiced by the station’s air staff.
Or so it seemed.
“Being raunchy was the station’s business model, to build a target audience of 18-34 year olds to whom to sell advertising,” Benson says. “Broadcasting in this segment about butt holes, sex with employers, and referring to 13 year girls masturbating was the essence of that business model to drive revenues,” Benson says. “But there was no training to avoid violating the law. The jury imposed the costs of that business model back on the station in order to hold it accountable for its reckless behavior.”
Not only did Afentra’s husband and Buzz program director Lazlo cop to receiving no training on delicate matters pertaining to libel, slander and false light invasion of privacy, he didn’t even exhibit the slightest modicum of common sense when confronted by Patton with the station’s mistake.
Quite the opposite.
In District Judge Danielle D. Crabtree‘s “Memorandum And Order” in June, he noted, “Sometime after noon that same day, plaintiff called the radio station and reached Program Director Scott Geiger (Lazlo). Until the phone call from plaintiff, Geiger did not know there had been a segment about local porn stars on ‘Afentra’s Big Fat Morning Buzz’ that morning. Plaintiff told him that the morning show had called her a porn star and that she was angry. In response, Geiger asked plaintiff, ‘Well, are you?’ Plaintiff replied that she was not and Geiger replied, ‘How do you know that you’re not a porn star?’ ”
In other words, instead of dealing with Patton’s request with a measure of dignity and respect, Lazlo poured gasoline on what was to become a million dollar fire.
“(Lazlo) was making her even more upset, and she was not satisfied with Geiger’s response,” Crabtree’s document continues.. “His continuing to ask if she was, in fact, a porn star made her feel as though he was saying she was lying and that she did not want anyone to know because she was, in fact, a porn star.”
Get the pic?
It took days before Entercom retired the raunchy podcast.
Going forward, my sources say these past two years, The Buzz’s on-air indiscretions have been dialed way back. That’s probably a good thing, although after looking at some of the comments on the previous story, one has to wonder.
In any event, it’s clear that there was far more to this story than an innocent Googling error.
A whole lot more.