Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Paper Didn't Warn Me, Plaintiff Claims

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Paper Didn't Warn Me, Plaintiff Claims

Article excerpt

A CALIFORNIA COURT could decide whether a newspaper has a legal obligation to tell the intended victim when It receives advance notice of a crime.

Such a possibility emerged in the case of Arthur Leighton, a 71-year-old retiree who is suing the North County Times and the city of Oceanside for $1 million based on the allegation they failed to advise him that 83-year-old Allen Bell might be coming after him. Believing Leighton was cuckolding him, Bell shot and critically wounded Leighton before killing himself Bell's wife, Thelma Hittleman, denied any affair.

Three weeks earlier, Craig Delavel, a reporter for the Escondido-based Times, received an unsolicited 10-minute audio cassette in which Bell threatened suicide and said, "If I cant go any other way. I'm just going to take my own life.... I'll join Leighton in departing Thelma."

Times editors informed the Oceanside Police Department and asked cops to check on Bell, who responded by calling the paper to angrily declare he only sent the tape "in case something happens.

Leighton, a retired executive who worked as a handyman at Bell's home and others in their Oceanside neighborhood, remained in critical condition after being shot in the stomach March 2, 1997. …

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