The sister of a man who was suspected of being a sexual predator and who killed himself as the cameras of “Dateline NBC” closed in on him sued NBC Universal Inc. on Monday for $105 million.
Patricia Conradt’s brother, Bill Conradt Jr., shot himself last November in a Dallas suburb as police knocked at his door and a camera crew for the newsmagazine waited in the street.
(MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft.)
Conradt claims her brother, an assistant county prosecutor, committed suicide after he was accused of engaging in a sexually explicit online chat with an adult posing as a 13-year-old boy. She alleges a police officer at the scene of the shooting told a “Dateline” producer, “That’ll make good TV.”
Bill Conradt, 57, became a target of a series called “To Catch a Predator” in which NBC and the activist group Perverted Justice set up shop for four days last November in a two-story home in Murphy, Texas. Perverted Justice staff posed as boys and girls online and arranged to meet men there.
Two dozen men were arrested, but the district attorney refused to prosecute any of them, saying many of the cases were tainted by the involvement of amateurs. And the city manager was fired for approving the arrangement without telling the mayor or the city council.
NBC and Perverted Justice have filmed similar operations in other cities, and the network has said the show did not have the same problems elsewhere that it produced in Murphy.
“We have not yet received the lawsuit, but we plan to defend ourselves vigorously as we believe the claims in the suit to be completely without merit,” said Jenny Tartikoff, a spokeswoman for NBC Universal.
Patricia Conradt accuses NBC Universal of engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity by bribing police across the country to let it film encounters with suspects it lures to a home where it has set up cameras.
She said in the lawsuit that NBC “steamrolled” police to arrest her brother at his home after he failed to show up at the rigged house 35 miles away.
Conradt said her brother was unable to defend himself when police, NBC employees and associates swarmed his yard, creating a relationship between NBC and her brother similar to the relationship a prison guard has with an inmate.
“The suicide was reasonably foreseeable,” her lawsuit reads. “At this time, the defendant wore the robe of a state official and Bill wore the shackles of a detainee. Having trespassed and invaded upon Bill’s property to broadcast a spectacle to millions, the defendant took no more steps toward protecting him than are received by a gladiator or bull.”
NBC was “concerned more with its own profits than with pedophilia,” she said in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York, where the network is based.