Case closed in Navy SEAL lawsuit against The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – Four Navy SEALs and the wife of a SEAL who sued The Associated Press over photos showing the servicemen posing with Iraqi prisoners have agreed to drop all claims and not appeal a decision by a federal judge in favor of the news organization.Both sides also signed a court document agreeing to bear their own legal costs. The agreement is expected to be approved by a judge later this week.The lawsuit was filed last year after the AP distributed photographs that reporter Seth Hettena found posted on a commercial photo-sharing Web site, Smugmug.com, by the wife of one of the SEALs.Last month, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller in San Diego dismissed all four counts of the lawsuit. Miller concluded that the claims that the news organization violated privacy and copyright laws by publishing the photos lacked merit.The photos, distributed worldwide with a Dec. 3 story by Hettena, appear to show the servicemen in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees and also what appear to be bloodied prisoners – one with a gun to his head.The story said the Navy had launched a formal investigation into the photographs after being shown them by an AP reporter. The story said the photos did not necessarily depict any illegal activities.The Navy’s preliminary findings were that most of the 15 photos had been taken for legitimate intelligence-gathering purposes and showed approved procedures.In his ruling, Miller said “it would not be reasonable for anyone to expect the images to remain private.””The Associated Press merely distributed a truthful story, with photos that depict a topic of great public interest,” Miller wrote.James W. Huston, attorney for the plaintiffs, had said in July that he intended to appeal the decision and refile a claim of copyright infringement as allowed by Miller’s ruling. The agreement drops that claim.The AP agreed as well not to claim attorney’s fees and other costs it would have been entitled to under a California law intended to allow quick dismissal of meritless cases aimed at stifling free speech.Vail – Colorado
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