Thursday, April 24, 2008

Slain Soldier's Parents Sue T-Shirt Maker

The parents of a Tennessee soldier killed in Iraq are suing an Arizona online merchant who included their son's name on anti-war shirts that list names of troops killed in the war.
The lawsuit filed by Robin and Michael Read of Greeneville, Tenn., accuses Dan Frazier of Flagstaff of intentionally inflicting emotional harm by including Spc. Brandon Michael Read's name on casualty lists printed on "Bush lied -- They died" T-shirts without permission and by ignoring a demand to remove their son's name.
The suit seeks $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages. It also asks that Frazier be permanently barred from using Brandon Read's name.
Frazier's free-speech rights ended when he used Brandon Read's name for profit and any reasonable person would consider Frazier's actions outrageous, said the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tennessee.
Read, a 21-year-old member of the Army Reserve, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq on Sept. 6, 2004.
The family's attorney, Francis X. Santore Jr. of Greeneville, said local court rules prohibited him and his clients from discussing the case beyond a statement in which the parents discussed their son and asked to be left alone while they let the courts "resolve this highly personal situation."
Frazier did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
However, his company's web site says it continues to sell the shirts despite laws passed by Arizona and other states "because we believe the message is important."
The Arizona law was enacted last year. It both generally made it a misdemeanor crime to use dead soldiers' names for commercial purposes without permission and authorized lawsuits.
The law's criminal section was put on hold by a federal judge in Phoenix pending a final ruling on a challenge filed by Frazier on First Amendment grounds.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake acknowledged that Frazier's use of casualties names may increase the hurt of loved ones but said the shirts are political speech.
Though the law permits Frazier to use casualties' names if he obtains permission from designated family members, that amounts to a flat prohibition "given the difficulty and cost of finding, contacting and obtaining consent from the soldiers' numerous representatives," Wake said.
Several states, including Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, have enacted similar laws.
The lawsuit's filing was first reported Wednesday by the Arizona Capitol Times.

Chicago's Violent Spring Grows Deadlier
Authorities found the bodies of five young people Wednesday inside a ransacked house on Chicago's South Side, raising the body count in an already violent spring, police said.
It appeared the three men and two women had been shot, but investigators were waiting for the Cook County medical examiner's office to confirm a cause of death, said Chief of Detectives Thomas Byrne. Autopsies were scheduled for Thursday, the medical examiner's office said.
"This is very serious," Byrne said at a news conference near the two-story house. "There's five victims. There's five families right now that are grieving over this."
All the victims were in their 20s, and they all knew each other, said Deputy Chief Eugene Williams. There were signs of forced entry into the house, which appeared to have been ransacked, Williams said.
A woman visiting the house found the bodies Wednesday afternoon, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.
Police did not have offenders in custody but did not believe a killer was on the loose, Bond said. It was possible the victims knew the offender, she said.
"We don't think that the neighbors need to worry," she said. "We believe that it's been contained inside this residence."
Police declined to comment on whether the scene was a murder-suicide.
They cordoned off a section of the residential street as neighbors milled around, talked in groups and watched.
Vanessa Mathis, whose mother lives across the street, said the neighborhood has many older residents and is not a crime-ridden area.
"We've never had anything like this to happen before," Mathis said.
The discovery comes on the heels of a spate of violence in Chicago. Nine people died in 36 shootings over the past weekend.
One man died and three others were wounded, including one of the alleged offenders, in shootings late Monday in a McDonald's restaurant parking lot on the South Side.
The recent violence followed a six-month period during which more than 20 Chicago public school students were shot to death.

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