A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Friday dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by two defendants in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case against a former TV reporter who helped break the story of alleged abuses of children at the school.
Judge Valerie Baker said there were “really no merits” to the defamation suit against KABC-TV and reporter Wayne Satz, filed in 1986 by the founder of the now-defunct Manhattan Beach school, Virginia McMartin, and her granddaughter, Peggy Ann Buckey, a teacher there.
The two women launched the action after criminal charges against them were dismissed, with Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner admitting that the government’s case, centering on alleged molestations of dozens of children, was “incredibly weak.” None of the seven people indicted were convicted in what became the longest criminal trial in U.S. history.
The suit charged that KABC demonstrated “outrageous conduct” beginning with a February, 1984, broadcast in which Satz described alleged acts of oral copulation and sodomy with children. The suit also claimed that Satz was not objective because he was romantically involved with a therapist who interviewed the children at the preschool.
In dismissing the civil action, Baker said “there has been nothing in discovery, nothing on the record” to prove defamation.
Satz said he was “very pleased” with the dismissal. McMartin and Buckey were asked repeatedly to detail what was defamatory, he said, but could pinpoint “nothing. Not one paragraph, one story, not one phrase, not one picture.”
“I’ve had five years of a spurious lawsuit that’s just finally bit the dust,” said Satz, himself now a lawyer in addition to doing some television work. “The lawsuit should never have been filed. . . . There ain’t no case.”
William Waysman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said they would probably appeal.
The suit complained that the widely publicized molestation case ruined the two women’s lives, subjecting them to “humiliation and severe emotional distress,” as well as “permanent impairment of earning capacity.”
In May, Superior Court Judge G. Keith Wisot found that a father who claimed on television that teachers at the preschool molested his son and worshipped Satan was guilty of slander. But the judge awarded only $1 each to McMartin, Buckey and another plaintiff.