Newport Broadcasting’s WCTI-TV (ABC) Greenville-New Bern-Washington, NC and chief meteorologist Skip Waters are defendants in a lawsuit by a man who alleges he was taken advantage of while a minor. A statement from station VP/GM Don Fisher says “judgments should not be made in haste” and denies that WCTI has any liability.
You get an idea of how complicated this case is by reading the allegation in the lawsuit that Waters had John Lero, who is no longer a minor, arrested on charges of forcible kidnap and rape, although the charges were dropped by the local prosecutor.
Lero, now 21, claims that he came to WCTI for a tour at the age of 16 and was befriended by Waters. The lawsuit alleges that the older man eventually bought marijuana that they smoked together, and that they drank alcohol, watched pornographic movies and had sex, all while Lero was still under age. The lawsuit claims that the two regularly visited the station together and that Waters “displayed acts of affection” toward Lero in his home in the presence of other WCTI employees. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and asks for compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000 for each of 12 counts.
In a statement, VP/GM Fisher said the station had been aware of the threatened lawsuit before it was filed and had commenced an internal investigation.
“At the outset, we believe it is important to make two fundamental points. First, even public figures are entitled to the dignity of privacy. Second, judgments should not be made in haste.
Based on the information available to us, we believe that the plaintiff’s counsel has failed to provide any information to support the claims that the station did anything wrong. The station believes it has no liability in this situation and will defend itself against these baseless charges. The alleged incidents are of a private nature and are not connected to the employee’s role or responsibilities at the station. Furthermore, we will afford the employee the presumption of innocence guaranteed to all citizens. If at any time it is demonstrated that the actions of the employee were inappropriate, or violated company policy, we will take appropriate action.
Because these charges are now in a court of law, we will withhold further public comment out of respect for the judicial process.
Vice President, General Manager