Good things happen when you get your ankle bracelet off, and so it goes for Larry Mendte. The former CBS3 anchor is suing the Philadelphia Inquirer, columnists Michael Klein, Jill Porter (who recently retired) and Jonathan Storm, alleging they "set about to destroy his life."
Mendte, who just finished serving six-months of house arrest, makes a myriad of allegations in the civil complaint filed late Wednesday. Most of the complaint centers on the relationship Mendte says gossip columnist Michael Klein and Alycia Lane developed, which crossed the lines of journalistic integrity and ultimately ruined any chance of Mendte salvaging his career as a television news anchor.
The suit alleges Klein published articles with false information that provoked the U.S. Attorney to upgrade charges from a misdemeanor to a felony.
"The feds do not respond to the press, nor are they influenced by press accounts," said Lane's attorney, Paul Rosen.
Mendte claims Lane and Klein's friendship began in May 2007 after the Inquirer columnist accessed restricted Daily News files to read an article to Lane before it was published. The complaint says the friendship became very close, with Klein and Lane talking and texting on a regular basis and hanging out together in the city.
Mendte alleges that friendship led Klein to write seven articles before Mendte was charged, casting him in a "dastardly, degrading and humiliating light." He says Klein "was determined to create news about him even when there was none."
In addition to the allegations made against Klein, Mendte claims two other columnists and management at Philadelphia Media Holdings (PMH), the parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, defamed him.
Daily News columnist Jill Porter called Mendte a "sick, evil, deviant, voyeuristic cyber peeping Tom" in a series of 2008 opinion articles. Philly.com writer Jonathan Storm called the former anchor a liar in an August 23, 2008 article, according to the complaint.
Mendte is seeking damages in excess of $50,000. Scott Baker, attorney for the newspaper's parent company, said: "We're still in the process of reviewing the allegations and intend to vigorously defend the people named in the lawsuit."
Mendte, who worked at NBC10 prior to CBS, was arrested in May 2008 for illegally accessing Lane's email account after installing a keystroke recorder on a CBS3 computer. He pled guilty to one felony count of unauthorized computer access in August 2008. He also admitted having a romantic relationship with Lane for more than a year. Lane is suing Mendte and CBS3. She is also suing the newspapers' other gossip columnist, Dan Gross for invasion of privacy and emotional distress. Her suit claims Mendte passed information to Gross that he got when he hacked into her email.