Posted on November 13, 2012 at 11:23 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A widow of a U.S. Army soldier killed in a blast in Afghanistan has sued Fox Cable Networks and the National Geographic Society over a documentary that showed her husband and family.
The documentary about a combat hospital called “Inside Afghan ER” featured Staff Sgt. Kevin Casey Roberts, who was serving with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle in Khost province in Afghanistan in 2008.
A year after his death, his wife, Donnice Roberts, got a call from a service member in Germany who saw her husband in the documentary. According to the lawsuit filed in Texas on Nov. 1, she never knew there was video footage related to her husband’s death and that the documentary existed.
She is seeking at least $750,000 in damages and wants a judge to prevent the film from airing again. She also wants the cable network to stop using images of military families without their permission.
The documentary was produced and distributed by the National Geographic Society, and was promoted and distributed by Fox Networks Inc. and Fox Entertainment Group Inc., which owns part of the NatGeo network.
Scott Grogin, a spokesman for Fox Networks Group, said the film never aired in the United States. Instead, it aired on the National Geographic International channel.
Donnice Roberts said an image of herself and her children that had been stored on her husband’s laptop was used in the documentary during scenes about his memorial service in Afghanistan. Grogin said the image of the family members was on display at the memorial service and was not taken from any personal computer or family archives as claimed in the lawsuit.
“The filmmakers got permission from the military to shoot the documentary and as part and parcel of that, were granted permission to shoot the memorial service,” he said.
No one immediately answered the phone or email for National Geographic.
Donnice Roberts said she suffered mental anguish, shock and sadness from learning about the documentary.
“Moreover, Mrs. Roberts has fears and concerns that her minor children are depicted as the children of a warrior in the war on terror, which is fought by fanatic, radical individuals who have shown a propensity and desire to kill Americans, including women and children,” the lawsuit said.
The Roberts family has appeared in a “Today” show segment about gifts donated to the family, but Donnice Roberts said that she knew how the images would be used and gave permission because the family was proud of her husband’s service and sacrifice.
She said military families have a right to privacy.
“Those are our personal items. If you chose to show a family photo, that is your choice,” she said. “But having it done without your permission, I just think it is immoral and an invasion of privacy.”
Sgt. Roberts joined the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served two tours in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan. He received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart and was buried in Texas, where his family lives.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division is based in Fort Campbell, Ky.