In May of 1994, the plaintiff, Rachel Cann was the founder and director of a non-profit agency, helping homeless and battered women in Brookline Massachusetts. The organization was in its fifth year of operation, a 501 c-3, but in the two weeks preceding the defamatory broadcast, only an answering service was operating because the plaintiff was in seclusion due to 2 impacted teeth.
On the day of the surgery she was accosted by the reporter who called her a thief. She then warned the reporter that there were a lot of rumors about her due to her participation in pro-life activities. She answered all of his questions but would not divulge the location of the shelter nor would she divulge the names of her clients. The reporter also interviewed a bystander that confirmed the plaintiff was helping women.
Three hours after the surgery at the Mass General Hospital, said reporter called the plaintiff and offered not to publish if she revealed the names of 3 clients. Plaintiff was not in any condition to cooperate. The broadcast included several violations of journalistic ethics.
This untruth as well as the fact that the reporter put the other woman up to calling under the guise of being homeless is untrue as well as fraudulent. The broadcast was premised on leaks from the Attorney General's Office that there had been complaints. Plaintiff was called in to the AG some 4 months after the broadcast. No charges were ever filed. The organization's annual report reflecting $38,000 in proceeds, and no government funds, had been approved by the Division of Public Charities and the IRS.
Plaintiff began getting harassing phone calls and death threats after the broadcast. Donations came to a halt. Up until this time, the number for the Brookline Women's Shelter was the only working number in the Yellow Pages under "shelters." The plaintiff suffered extreme emotional distress and was forced into hiding because of the negative publicity. She intends to prove malicious intent if she can get a lawyer and funding. Several witnesses were aware of the "anonymous source" being a fraud and not a reputable witness. No one who knew the plaintiff, volunteers, board members, the Brookline Police, were interviewed prior to the broadcast. The reporter had interviewed the plaintiff previously though he claimed not to know her on the day of the defamatory broadcast. Shelter providers promise confidentiality to their clients, historically. The media should be held accountable.