Friday, April 25, 2008

Parents of dead GI sue anti-war shirt maker

By Paul Davenport - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 24, 2008 11:58:06 EDT

PHOENIX — The parents of a Tennessee soldier killed in Iraq are suing an Arizona online merchant who included their son’s name on anti-war shirts that list names of troops killed in the war.

The lawsuit filed by Robin and Michael Read of Greeneville, Tenn., accuses Dan Frazier of Flagstaff of intentionally inflicting emotional harm by including Spc. Brandon Michael Read’s name on casualty lists printed on “Bush lied — They died” T-shirts without permission and by ignoring a demand to remove their son’s name.

The suit seeks $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages. It also asks that Frazier be permanently barred from using Brandon Read’s name.

Frazier’s free-speech rights ended when he used Brandon Read’s name for profit and any reasonable person would consider Frazier’s actions outrageous, said the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tennessee.

Read, a 21-year-old member of the Army Reserve, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq on Sept. 6, 2004.

The family’s attorney, Francis X. Santore Jr. of Greeneville, said local court rules prohibited him and his clients from discussing the case beyond a statement in which the parents discussed their son and asked to be left alone while they let the courts “resolve this highly personal situation.”

Frazier did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

However, his company’s Web site says it continues to sell the shirts despite laws passed by Arizona and other states “because we believe the message is important.”

The Arizona law was enacted last year, making it a misdemeanor to use dead soldiers’ names for commercial purposes without permission.

The law’s criminal section was put on hold by a federal judge in Phoenix pending a final ruling on a challenge filed by Frazier on First Amendment grounds.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake acknowledged that Frazier’s use of the names of casualties may increase the hurt of loved ones but said the shirts are political speech.

Though the law permits Frazier to use casualties’ names if he obtains permission from designated family members, that amounts to a flat prohibition “given the difficulty and cost of finding, contacting and obtaining consent from the soldiers’ numerous representatives,” Wake said.

Several states, including Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, have enacted similar laws.

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