A Colorado man accused of "preying" on a "multitude" of Southern California women including Kelley Cahill, the Orange County founder of dating investigative service iCheckmate, has sued Cahill, ABC News' 20/20 and show host Chris Cuomo for libel.
David Williams claims that "Blinded By Love: Kelley Cahill's Ordeal," which broadcast on June 24, 2011, and remains available online at the network, published eight false and defamatory statements "causing great emotional distress."
"[20/20] falsely portrayed Cahill as a victim of an online dating fraud and Williams as the villain, an Internet dating predator who lied to, and took advantage of, women he met online," Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, Williams' Beverly Hills attorney, wrote in the lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.
According to the 11-page complaint, Williams and Cahill met at Match.com in 2005 0r 2006, began dating and bought an OC home together but the affectionate relationship ended when Williams caught her in bed with another man.
"This private matter would have and should have ended there, had Cahill not chosen to use a distorted version of their relationship as a fable on the dangers of Internet dating in order to promote 'iCheckmates,' a business she started which enables users to check the backgrounds of people they meet online," the lawsuit states.
According to Rufus-Isaacs, Cahill approached 20/20 in March 2011--five years after the breakup and then Cuomo and show staffer Jack Pyle produced a story that "falsely stated or implied that Williams lied to Cahill about his marital status, that she had given him gifts including a Range Rover, that he profited from the relationship, whereas she had incurred mounting debts and that he had 'preyed' on a 'multitude of other women.'"
In truth, according to the lawsuit, Cahill was the freeloader in the relationship and Williams told her that he was separated from his wife, not divorced.
Cuomo and ABC sloppily accepted Cahill's assertions as truthful without meaningful, objective research and failed to offer Williams an adequate opportunity to rebut Cahill's allegations, according to the lawsuit.
At this point, I don't know who is telling the truth, but it's clear that Cahill has run a relentless, emotional, public campaign against Williams, who she labels "a cheater."
Cuomo is an outstanding, award-winning journalist, but this particular show was relatively weak. For example, he claims he found a multitude of other women Williams allegedly victimized using the Internet but doesn't show any of them or tell any of their stories. The network also didn't provide viewers with easily available evidence that could have supported or undermined Cahill's claims that she bought him an expensive vehicle and home.
And there is this: I would have expected that the network show had found a woman who'd been victimized by a monster or, at least, a veteran criminal or rapist. But, after watching the broadcast, it's obvious that Williams is none of those. The worst that can be said about him is that he cheated on his wife. Yet, ABC didn't nail that point either. If Williams is right and he had separated from his wife at the time of the Cahill relationship, then the story collapses.
In a lame attempt to back Cahill's story of the long-ended relationship, 20/20 showed present-day images of Williams listed negatively on websites such as Cheaters.com and DontDateHimGirl.com. Other than potentially pathetic circular logic, what do those listings prove if Cahill was the person who created them? ABC doesn't get to the bottom of that mystery.
Neither the network nor Cahill has filed a formal response in court to Williams' lawsuit.
The case has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Charles Margines in Santa Ana.
Cahill's business, iCheckmates, offers to do simple background checks on 10 potential dates for $49.95.
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No doubt that her business benefited financially by ABC's questionable report.
If the show wants to keep its credibility, it will revisit the situation and, this time, do a thorough job.
(rscottmoxley at ocweekly dot . . . )