Sheriff sued for wrong photo

By Rachel Lloyd rlloyd@civitasmedia.com

February 24, 2014

A Sidney woman whose face mistakenly was displayed in connection with a criminal investigation is now suing the Shelby County Sheriff and one of his deputies for damage caused to her reputation.

The case is being brought by Christine Hughes, 585 E. Mason Road, with representation by Roberts Kelly & Bucio. According to the clerk of courts office, it was filed with the court Feb. 21.

Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart and Deputy Patrick Goldschmidt are named as defendants in the case, which claims defamation, false light and intentional inflicition of emotional distress.

The case stems from a press conference hosted jointly by the Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Job and Family Services and the Shelby County Commissioners on Jan. 24 regarding the ongoing crackdown on welfare fraud in the community.

Hughes’ photo was displayed prominently on the wall during the press conference, among photos of several women who had reportedly been convicted of welfare-fraud related crimes. Hughes’ photograph and the others were subsequently disseminated by various media outlets and on Facebook.

According to the suit, Hughes contacted the Sheriff’s Office about the incorrect photo being displayed, and a correction was issued to the various media outlets providing the correct photo, but Hughes contends that the damage to her reputation has continued, as the photo’s distribution online has been irrevocable.

According to Chief Deputy Jim Frye at the Sheriff’s Office, “various resources” were used to obtain the photos used in the press conference, and Hughes’ image was not taken from a jail mugshot file.

“Mrs. Hughes has never been in any trouble,” Frye said.

The Sheriff’s Office will not be commenting further on the ongoing litigation.