Judge: City must pay $259K to woman wrongly called 'crook'

AP News
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Posted: Aug 05, 2015 8:11 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The city of Lincoln must pay more than $259,000 to a woman who was wrongly accused by Crime Stoppers and local authorities of making ATM withdrawals with a stolen credit card, a judge in Nebraska ruled Wednesday.

The decision comes after a jury had already awarded $75,000 to 26-year-old Shayla Funk in her defamation lawsuit against Lincoln-Lancaster County Crime Stoppers Inc. and the city.

Funk sued after her image appeared on the Crime Stoppers website, with incorrect claims that she was a "crook" who made fake ATM deposits and withdrawals using a stolen credit card.

The video showed Funk withdrawing cash from her own account in April 2013, but she was misidentified as a thief because the video's time stamp was incorrect, which led bank officials to give police the wrong footage.

Lancaster County District Judge Steven Burns also ordered the city to issue retractions on the Crime Stopper's website, the Lincoln Police Department's Facebook page and on a local television station where her image was shown. The city must Funk give 10 copies of the retraction that she can use at her discretion.

"The judge's requirement of a retraction is important to restoring my client's reputation," said Funk's attorney, Vince Powers. "It's sad that it took a lawsuit to obtain a retraction."

Lincoln City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said his office was still reviewing the decision and considering an appeal. The mistake "was unfortunate, and the city regrets the error," he said, but the police department has learned from the experience.

Funk has said she left her job after she was placed on unpaid leave for three weeks when someone saw the video. She said that even two years later, when she goes back to her hometown, people still joke, "Hide your credit cards — Shayla's here."