Settlement in defamation case ends 14-year conflict between man and newspaper

ILLINOIS — A man wrongly identified in a suburban Chicago newspaper as the person arrested in a drug bust settled his defamation lawsuit against the paper.

Christopher M. Edwards reached a settlement two weeks ago with Paddock Publications, publishers of the Daily Herald in Chicago, said Joseph M. O’Callaghan, Edwards’ lawyer. The agreement ended a 14-year dispute between Edwards and the newspaper.

Because of the confidential terms of the settlement, O’Callaghan said he could not comment any further.

An e-mail sent to Daily Herald managing editor Eileen Brown was not returned.

The Herald used Edwards’ picture erroneously on March 28, 1991, after the Illinois State Police arrested another “Christopher Edwards” — Christopher A. Edwards — in conjunction with a drug sting the previous morning, according to court documents.

The plaintiff’s photo was mistakenly taken from a Hoffman Estates High School yearbook after reporters found a similar photo in the case file and could not locate a mug shot. The caption called Edwards a former “Hoffman Estates high school football star.” Edwards was a former football player at the school, but he was not the Edwards arrested on drug charges.

The paper printed a front-page retraction the next day.

Edwards filed suit in 1992, with the court finding in favor of the newspaper. Edwards was granted a new trial in 2002 after an appellate court overturned the original decision. The 2003 retrial found in favor of Edwards, and an appeal by the newspaper was ongoing when the parties settled.

by Kyle McCarthy, SPLC staff writer