Two men, whom the New York Post labeled “Bag Men”after the fatal Boston Marathon bomb attack, sued the newspaper for libel.
The New York Post reported that Federal investigators sought 16-year-old Salaheddin Barhoum and 24-year-old Yassine Zaimi. The story had ran just hours before the FBI released photos of the actual suspects.
After the New York Post’s images had hit the Web, Barhoum and Zaimi went to the local police. Law enforcement officials assured both they were not suspects in the case.
“Bag Men” Were Spectators At The Marathon
Barhoum and Zaimi went to the Boston Marathon as spectators. They left shortly after the winners crossed the finish line — about two hours before a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Like the rest of the world, Barhoum and Zaimi learned of the bombings on television.
Post Frames Men As Suspects
The New York Post delivered a different impression. On Thursday, April 18, the newspaper ran with the “Bag Men” tagline on the front page. The article stated that investigators “are circulating photos of two men spotted chatting near the finish line,” combined with a photo of Barhoum and Zaimi.
The civil lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts, seeks unspecified damages and names the New York Post, plus five journalists, as defendants. Barhoum and Zaimi accuse the newspaper of publishing “photographic images, together with false, inflammatory and libelous assertions concerning plaintiffs’ involvement in the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.”
The Post’s “Bag Men” were never suspects. In fact, hours after publishing the photos, the FBI released pictures of two official suspects, later identified as brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The two brothers allegedly killed a police officer at MIT and engaged in a gunbattle with police in Watertown. Tamerlan, 26, died in the fight. Dzhokhar, 19, was arrested after a day-long manhunt that paralyzed much of Boston.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now in a prison hospital awaiting a death penalty trial. And the New York Post will probably pay big bucks for potentially crossing the defamation/false light line.