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Lawsuit alleging defamation by TV show dismissed

A Landover man has ended his lawsuit against a true-crime documentary series he alleged portrayed him as the killer of a friend.

Gary Jefferson was granted a voluntary dismissal of his action, which sought $650,000 in damages from TV One network and Jupiter Entertainment for an episode of “Fatal Attraction” about Tawanna Barnes-Copeland.

Barnes-Copeland was found stabbed to death in her Washington, D.C., apartment in December 2010. Shawn Davis, her ex-boyfriend, is currently serving 18 years in prison for the murder.

While Jefferson alleged the show portrayed him as the killer, a DVD provided by Jupiter Entertainment shows Jefferson’s alibi being verified about 36 minutes into the 45-minute program, followed by his elimination as a suspect. Attention then turns to Davis, who confesses and is convicted.

The action was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning Jefferson will not be able to refile it in the future.

Lanet R. Scott, a District Heights solo practitioner and Jefferson’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning.

Jefferson had alleged the program, “Raging Bull,” portrayed him as a jealous lover seeking revenge; he claims he and Barnes-Copeland were not romantically involved but “friends, at best” who engaged in consensual sex once or twice. Jefferson also alleged the show falsely indicated he hid from police; he willingly spoke with officers two days after Barnes-Copeland’s death, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

The episode also referred to Jefferson by his nickname, “Bo,” “ensuring that the world would know [his] identity without question,” according to the complaint.

In addition to defamation, the lawsuit sought damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It also requested an injunction to prevent the episode from ever being aired again.

Todd Moss, a vice president and executive producer with New York- and Knoxville, Tenn.-based Jupiter Entertainment, said Friday he was pleased with the case’s dismissal but declined further comment on the litigation. In an email earlier this month accompanying a copy of the program, Moss defended the accuracy of “Raging Bull,” pointing out its depiction of Jefferson’s alibi being confirmed and Davis’ confession and conviction.

“Jupiter Entertainment and the Fatal Attraction production team go to great lengths to make sure every assertion made in every episode is attributable to a primary source (police, victim’s family, prosecutors, etc.). We also fact check these assertions against police reports, court records, and other publicly accessible information,” Moss wrote in an email. “We have two separate fact checkers vet each episode in-house. Once those two fact checks are complete, we submit the show to our attorneys for a third review. This is a rigorous process, one to which many television producers, news outlets, and print journalists do not adhere.”

The lawsuit that was dismissed is Jefferson v. TV One LLC, et al., 8:14-cv-02762-PJM.