Contractor accuses radio host of defamation

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Pete Chryss’ security contracts with Desert Hot Springs, CA have drawn criticism from Morris Communications’ KNWZ-FM/KNEWS 94.3 host Lee Rayburn. So much so that he filed a lawsuit accusing the host and his employers of defamation.


KNEWS talker Rayburn, GM Jay White and News Director John McMullen also face allegations of invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In court documents filed 12/7 and obtained by The Desert Sun, Chryss details the “salacious and sensational” radio segments that painted Chryss as a wanted felon who collected child pornography. Court records show no pornography charges.

Desert Hot Springs police Chief Patrick Williams called in to Rayburn’s show to point out that Chryss does not have any warrants for his arrest. Chryss — who filed under his legal name of Peter Paul Chryssikos Jr. — has lost 90% of his business, and his children were ridiculed so much they stayed home from school “during the worst of the smear campaign,” attorney Dave Baron told the paper. Baron plans to seek millions in damages.

“They’ve essentially destroyed his life for sport,” Baron told The Desert Sun.

Rayburn and his staff also called Chryss’ probation officer, demanding that he be arrested for violating his probation, ordered after he was convicted in 2008 of writing a bad check, according to the 33-page lawsuit.

“At a time when educators, parents and public officials are struggling to prevent bullying and other abusive tactics which cause untold physical and emotional harm, Rayburn is the quintessential bully,” Baron wrote.

Morris Communications’ Desert Radio Group will respond to the suit by Jan. 9, White told the paper: “Desert Radio Group categorically denies that it has broadcast falsehoods about Mr. Chryssikos. Desert Radio Group expects to show to the court that it broadcast information that was in the public interest and protected by the free press provisions of the constitutions of the State of California and of the United States.”

The suit cites eight radio segments that date back to early October, when public outcry began over Chryss’ contract work with Desert Hot Springs.

Since 12/10, the city has paid Chryss Home Automation $15,328 for security and monitoring services at city-owned homes and buildings. The city canceled the contracts amid intense public scrutiny over Chryss’ affiliation with then-City Councilman Karl Baker. Chryss rents a room from Baker. In its investigation, the city concluded that Chryss was not properly licensed by the state as required by the state to install alarm systems.

Chryss is covered under a previous employer’s license, Baron said. Desert Star Weekly, a weekly publication based in Desert Hot Springs, also could face action for similar reports about Chryss, Baron said Friday.

The invasions of privacy charges includes an 11/10 interview of Chryss’ former lover, who spoke to Rayburn on air about child support and Chryss’ involvement in their daughter’s life. On the defamation charges, Chryss will have to prove not only that Rayburn was wrong in his claims, but that he did not make a reasonable attempt to investigate the allegations first.

The lawsuit was filed a month after Baker, an incumbent councilman, was voted out of office as allegations about Chryss and Baker’s business dealings came under intense scrutiny. The city investigation also concluded Baker appears to have endorsed all 22 checks paid to Chryss Home Automation.

RBR-TVBR observation: It sounds like Rayburn was doing a good job of exposing potential corruption with the bullhorn of local radio. However, unless they can prove the child pornography claims, they may be in some hot water over the defamation and emotional distress claims.