Who's Looking out for You??

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On Fox News Aug. 7, John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor, gave out the La Habra, California, home address of Iyad Hilal, who he said was the leader of a terrorist group with ties to the London bombings. He later repeated the La-Habra-is-harboring-a-terrorist line on popular local talk radio KFI.

Outraged Southern Californians drove by the house, taking surveillance pictures, yelling profanities, and spray-painting the word "Terrist." But the vigilant citizens didn't know one relevant detail—Iyad hasn't lived at that address for at least three years.

"I'm scared to go to work and leave my kids home. I call them every 30 minutes to make sure they're OK," [house resident] Randy Vorick said.

"I keep telling myself this can't be happening to me. This can't be happening to my family. But it is. I want our lives to be normal again."

L.A. Times story (which seems to be having server trouble) here; abridged version available here.

NEXT: It's Always the Women Who Suffer Most (Bra Crisis Edition)

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  1. Can’t the current residents sue Loftus for damages?

  2. Or sue Fox news for… something? Shit, I hope they get sued out of business.

  3. A few years ago, a Toronto news paper decided to publish pictures of released convicted sex-offenders, as well as the areas they were thought to be living in. Over the following few days, several innocent look-alikes were severely beaten by ‘concerned’ citizens.

  4. But if Randy bought this house from Hilal then our wouldn’t our president say that he was a terrorist also?

  5. Captain:

    Vorick’s low fixed-rate mortgage, not unlike the dimebag I bought last week, is funding freedom-haters.

  6. Vorick… hmm, suspicious. Why is he afraid if he is innocent and has nothing to hide?

  7. The purchase of the home was obvioulsy a money-laundering ruse to funnel funds into a terrorist organization.

    And even if it wasn’t, these people should be locked up just to discourage others from trying it!

  8. Perhaps the house should be seized and used as housing for law enforcement personnel pending the outcome of an investigation into this shady individual and likely terrorist-funder.

  9. If too many vandals and protestors show up in front of the house, the owners will effectively be hosting a large event without a permit. You know what that means…

  10. When I excerpted an apparent transcript of Loftus’ appearance, I left out the address.

    The LAT also points out that KFI’s John & Ken didn’t broadcast the address.

    And, they also had the current owner on to explain the issue.

    They also discussed this was their local CAIR rep, who says Hilal isn’t violent.

    And, from the LAT:

    “Cathy Viray, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said agents were looking into Loftus’ terrorist allegations but stopped short of calling it an investigation.”

  11. I’m reminded of the ‘Kill Doug Szathkey’ sketch on the Ben Stiller Show.

  12. “They also discussed this with their local CAIR rep…”

  13. This Vorick is a pussy. He should try being ME for ten minutes..

  14. This mass hysteria only proves that the terrists have won.

  15. I think Loftus and Vorick should swap houses.

  16. Or sue Fox news for… something? Shit, I hope they get sued out of business.

    That first admendment is a real bitch, ain’t it?

  17. Does the First Amendment cover broadcasters who broadcast out-and-out (if unintentional) falsehoods that lead to demonstrable harm? Like for instance, if someone burned down the house out of the belief that they were fighting terrorism, could Fox News and/or Loftus be held at least civilly liable, if not criminally so?

  18. I suspect the guy has a legitimate suit against them, Jennifer. It sounds like slander or negligence to me.

  19. I think so too, Eric. Maybe Fox can change its slogan to “We report–you take justice into your own hands.”

  20. “I think so too, Eric. Maybe Fox can change its slogan to “We report–you take justice into your own hands.””

    How about “We report, oftentimes unfalsely– you unthinkingly go from there.”

  21. “I’m terribly sorry about that. I had no idea. That was the best information we had at the time,” [Loftus] said.

    I find this statement disturbing on at least two levels.

    Anon

  22. I think “a terrorist lives at this address and we need to do something about it” is arguably within the “‘fire!’ in a crowded theater” exception to the 1st Amendment.

  23. Um, did Vorick call the cops? That sounds like an awful lot of trespassing and vandalism.

    Me? I woulda thrown handfuls of flour or any other nearby white powder at anyone defacing my home.

  24. Never let it be said that Fox “News” would ever stop short of inducing terrorism-fueled panic in its 18-to-49-year-old. easily-frightened, angry-white-male sheep demographic.

    And now back to Greta Van Susteren, who refuses to stop reporting from Aruba. For God’s sake, people, a white woman is missing !

  25. Uh-oh. Two Jeffs. I’ll add my initial.

    I would also like to add that I had a chance to grab someone who was spraypainting “terrorist” on my house, I would call a local camera crew, then shit on the guy’s head live on the 5PM news.

    I would also probably recite John Goodman’s “This is what hapens when you fuck someone” rant from the Big Lebowski.

  26. That should be “IF I had a chance to grab…”

  27. You would think that the Fact-Checkers at FOX would have?Oh yeah; never mind.

  28. IANAL, but my recollection is that members of “the press” can’t be sued for false statements unless it can be proved that the press organization did so with malice. In other words, if they merely make an unintentional mistake rather than knowingly and deliberately lying, they can’t be touched.

    I believe this is intended to protect the press from being driven out of business by being sued every time they make a statement that is simply factually wrong, which would be quite often.

  29. SPD,
    “And now back to Greta Van Susteren, who refuses to stop reporting from Aruba. For God’s sake, people, a white woman is missing !”

    Not only missing, but most likely raped and murdered. This brings the needed sex and violence into the story to keep it interesting.

  30. I would also like to add that I had a chance to grab someone who was spraypainting “terrorist” on my house, I would call a local camera crew, then shit on the guy’s head live on the 5PM news.

    That’s…definitely novel.

  31. IANAL, but my recollection is that members of “the press” can’t be sued for false statements unless it can be proved that the press organization did so with malice.

    Would it apply to Vorick if it was deemed that Fox was trying to insite vigilantism against Hilal?

  32. Loftus regularly appears on national radio programs, including, the Art Bell/George Noory Coast-to-Coast program, spouting his odd mix of doomsday scenarios, neoconism. He mixes it up with a lot of “in-the-know” type details, which are usually WRONG, and predictions that make listeners think they’re hearing from someone who knows something, and not just a hack propagandist who lives in Florida.

  33. IANAL, but my recollection is that members of “the press” can’t be sued for false statements unless it can be proved that the press organization did so with malice.

    If I’m not mistaken, that applies only to public figures. I’m pretty sure this guy has a case.

    Fox has deep pockets too. And the jury pool will come from the same yahoos who can be incited to do things like this, but at the same time harbor deep resentments against the “rich and powerful”.

    This may end up being great entertainment.

    But that will hardly compensate for what this family has gone thru.

  34. …I would call a local camera crew, then shit on the guy’s head live on the 5PM news.

    I am outraged! Everybody know the local news starts at 6!

  35. Eric, would a savage beating on the front lawn in front of the neighbors be more sedate? Everything I’ve read so far sounds like this guy just curled up into a ball. Vigilantism, vandalism, and verbal assault are are crimes. This guy has a lot of charges to file.
    I’ll stick with a good fiber-rich loaf to the head. Then I’ll sell my story to a network.
    “When they terrorized his family, he SHIT on their HEADS! Watch The End of Justice, Tues at 9.”

  36. “IANAL, but my recollection is that members of “the press” can’t be sued for false statements unless it can be proved that the press organization did so with malice. In other words, if they merely make an unintentional mistake rather than knowingly and deliberately lying, they can’t be touched.”

    But when revealing info that could seriously alter/ruin a person’s life, especially if said info isn’t needed to know by the public, shouldn’t there be a burden of proof WAY THE FUCK beyond a reasonable doubt?

  37. Al C.,

    That was the funniest shit I’ve read here in a while.

  38. I think so too, Eric. Maybe Fox can change its slogan to “We report–you take justice into your own hands.”

    Or “We… Aw fuckit, y’all just go burn houses at random, one of ’em’s bound to be a terrist!”

  39. unless it can be proved that the press organization did so with malice

    What possible excuse is there to give out someone *accused* of wrongdoing’s address on *national* television, other than malice?

  40. then again, what if the homeowner really WERE a “terrorist”…an avowed member of a group that has declared war on the US and killed 3,000 people on 9/11? i guess we should do nothing, and besides, terrorism doesn’t really exist, it’s just a conspiracy dreamed up by neocons, 9/11 never really happened.

    anyway, the homeowner should sue loftus, absolutely, he is at fault here…but it’s hard to see how fox news, loathesome though they may be, could have clairvoyantly predicted he was going to recite these incorrect facts on live tv.

  41. then again, what if the homeowner really WERE a “terrorist”…an avowed member of a group that has declared war on the US and killed 3,000 people on 9/11? i guess we should do nothing, and besides, terrorism doesn’t really exist, it’s just a conspiracy dreamed up by neocons, 9/11 never really happened.

    I have an idea! How about we have the government hire some people whose job it is to take care of terrorists and other criminals so ordinary citizens don’t have to? And maybe they could hire some OTHER guys whose job it is to find evidence and determine whether or not the accused is really guilty, and then–heck, I’m full of ideas today–the government could even build special places where people found to be guilty of crimes could be locked away from the rest of society!

    What do you think guys? Too outrageous? Too fantastic? Too out-of-touch with reality? Yeah, I guess you’re right. Mob justice it is, then.

  42. Um…for news organizations, it’s not JUST actual malice, it’s also reckless disregard for the truth.

    Failing to look at PROPERTY records, which would have shown a property within the last six months (and which are known to be available to news groups) is close enough to reckless disregard to the truth for a trial, I think….

  43. jimmy,

    Don’t large broadcasting companies have delay buttons? They can used for stupidity as well as nudity. (Although if that were the case, The O’Reilly Factor and Real Time with Bill Maher would have nothing but 60 minutes of dead air.)

    Besides, a terrorist actually has to do something first before he’s technically a terrorist, right? Prior to that, he’s just a shifty-looking Arab.

    This quote from the article had special resonance for me:

    “I’m terribly sorry about that. I had no idea. That was the best information we had at the time,”

    Dubya may wants to keep a written copy of this quote in his wallet in case post-Saddam Iraq turns into a fascist theocracy.

    One last note: Since I am a big fan of Planet Earth, does that makes me a “terrist,” too? Has the government declared a War on Terra (firma? cotta?)?

  44. Hey now, folks, I’m not defending the law (or Fox); I just gave my recollection of what I thought the law said.

    Which was apparently wrong. I did some browsing, , and Isaac Bartram is apparently right when he says, “If I’m not mistaken, that applies only to public figures. I’m pretty sure this guy has a case.”

    What I found out from the above link:

    For purely private individuals, the test for proving libel is not as difficult. Although Supreme Court rulings such as the Sullivan decision apply everywhere in the United States, most states continue to have their own libel laws that cover private individuals. Usually those laws require that public [from context, I think that was meant to say “private”] figures who believe they have been libeled prove that a journalist has been negligent when publishing false information about them. Negligence, like malice, is a legal term that generally means carelessness on the part of a reporter or editor. Because private individuals have more reason than public officials to be left alone in the media, American libel laws recognize that they are entitled to more legal protection against false statements made about them.

    However: This is not exactly “libel,” is it? Fox didn’t harm Vorick’s reputation by saying he is a terrorist; but Fox gave out false information that led people to think a terrorist (not Vorick) currently lived at Vorick’s address.

    So getting Fox to accept liability for the harrassment and vandalism might be harder than getting them to simply issue a retraction. If I were a lawyer for Fox, I’d probably argue that Fox mistakenly and perhaps even negligently broadcast incorrect information and should issue a correction and apology (which apparently has been done, sorta), but that Fox isn’t responsible for any illegal actions that people subsequently chose to undertake on the basis of that information.

    Unless Loftus actually urged people to confront, harrass or take vigilante action against the resident of the address in question. I can only read the abridged version of the incident, and it doesn’t say that he did.

  45. [i]”I’m terribly sorry about that. I had no idea. That was the best information we had at the time,” [/i]

    Bah. That’s no excuse. People DO move. AND IT’S NOT THAT HARD TO SEE IF A PERSON’S STILL AT THE OLD ADDRESS.

    Loftus should be sued to within an inch of his life. Incompetent wanker.

  46. Hm. Wonder if Loftus’ email address (LoftusHome@cs.com ) is still good….

  47. Well, before we get all up in arms, the house IS serviing a ‘public purpose’.

    Paul

  48. After this, newspapers should begin to publish the names of citizens who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

    Oh wait, they already do

  49. Tangental to the main subject, KFI has lately had a knack for hiring boring, dumbass political hosts (most recently one Michael Graham from DC). Apparently, all you have to do is spew national political crap that no one in the real world gives a wet slap about and you’re automatically on the short list for a talk gig in the Big Orange.

  50. “Al C.,

    That was the funniest shit I’ve read here in a while.”

    I don’t see what you think is so funny. You don’t know what my family is up against. My sister Chic got teased mercilessly during last year’s bug invasion.

  51. Jennifer:

    “How about we have the government..”

    I agree with you on all points, as long as it is as you say, and not the government “having” us.

  52. Mr. Nice Guy–

    The system we have now sucks in a LOT of ways, but the fact remains that, despite what Jimmy would have us believe, we have more choices than either “have the whole neighborhood rise up against people they heard about on Fox News” or “Do nothing and let the terrorists blow us all to smithereens.”

  53. On Fox News Aug. 7, John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor, gave out the La Habra, California, home address of Iyad Hilal, who he said was the leader of a terrorist group with ties to the London bombings.

    Is it legal to publish the address of a prosecutor?

  54. I don’t know who posted under Stevo’s name upthread a tad, but he better knock it off. You’re not fooling anyone – Stevo would never post informed, reasonable commentary.

    He’s our go-to guy for scatological haiku and general-purpose snark, not for solid information. 😉

  55. R C Dean: It was me. Occasionally I sober up — er, go off my medication.

  56. Well, if anyone cares on this, CNN reported today that Fox News did fire John Loftus. He should be held accountable for it. At least Fox did the right thing here. *shrugs*

  57. Well FolksFOX may had said that a terrorist lived at this address, But all of you and the other media has now given the name and number of who lives at this location. We all know that if you give a name and city then you can find that persons address on the net. So now that cnn and other media has given this information I think they have caused more damage then FOX. I can also tell you that where he and his wife work and what they do and there criminal history but I choose not to be like /www.reason.com or L.A. Times

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