Former Granite Recovery Centers CEO sues for defamation;  NHPR defends reporting |  News, sports, jobs

Former Granite Recovery Centers CEO sues for defamation; NHPR defends reporting | News, sports, jobs

NHPR office in Concord (NHPR website photo by Cheryl Center)

New Hampshire Public Radio is defending its reporting of Eric Spofford, the former CEO of Granite Recovery Centers, who sued the station, its news director and two reporters over a story and podcast accusing him of sexual misconduct.

The summary statement from NHPR Consultant Jayme Simoes was emailed to InDepthNH.org following a request for comment:

“NHPR is committed to its reporting and will vigorously defend our press.”

Spofford filed the suit on September 20 in Rockingham County Superior Court claiming that the NHPR story and podcast defamed him and damaged his reputation by falsely claiming that Spofford sexually assaulted former employees and sexually harassed a client the day after leaving treatment.

The lawsuit names senior reporter Lauren Chuljian, the article and podcast writer, and Jason Moon for his contribution to reporting, and news director Dan Barrick for his involvement in reporting and approving the story prior to publication.

“On March 22, 2022, NHPR published a successful article on Eric. The title of clickbait Used — who built the largest addiction treatment network in New Hampshire and, now, faces charges of sexual misconduct — amounts to alleging that Eric is criminally charged with sexual offences,” The lawsuit states.

“From top to bottom, both the article and the podcast incorrectly suggest that Eric sexually molested one woman (a pseudonym,”Elizabeth“) and the sexual assault of two others (pseudonyms,”Employee A” And the “employee b“)” According to the suit brought by attorneys Michael Strauss of Spofford Enterprises in Salem, and Howard Cooper of Todd and Weld in Boston.

The lawsuit alleges that Chooljian was ‘In pursuit of her personal favour’ And NHPR plans to use the story to promote fundraising.

The suit says NHPR knew or recklessly ignored the allegations as false. The lawsuit also sued three sources that NHPR used to report the story.

Spofford is well known in New Hampshire, particularly in the recovery community as the long-term recovering heroin addict who built the state’s largest addiction treatment network, which he sold to a Texas-based treatment company in 2021 at an undisclosed price.

After the sale, Spofford reportedly bought a house in Miami, Florida, for $20.75 million, and now splits his time between Miami and Wyndham, where he lives with his father and two sons.

The lawsuit alleges that NHPR knew about it or recklessly ignored it “Elizabeth and Employee A were dishonest, unreliable, and motivated to damage Eric’s reputation” She publicized Employee B’s allegations without being interviewed.

NHPR claims that Lynsie Metivier was the director of human resources at GRC during the period when the sexual misconduct allegedly occurred, but has not spoken to her about the story.

It also claims that on the day the story was published, Metivier was called Chooljian and provided reliable information that undermined the accuracy of the story. Mitever confirmed, according to the lawsuit, that she was the director of human resources from October 2017 through February. 2020, you have never heard any allegations, complaints or rumors from GRC employees that Spofford has sexually harassed or assaulted them.

According to the lawsuit, NHPR suppressed Metivier’s information as well as a retraction by Piers Kaniuka, who was “A reliable source they mistrusted, knew Eric well enough to credibly criticize him and compare him to the likes of Harvey Weinstein.”

“Kaniuka’s lies are the focus of the article and podcast,” The lawsuit says.

On May 17, Kanioka told the NHPR Board of Trustees and Chooljian that he was writing to clarify and correct statements he made that were included in the story.

“Specifically, I am interested in your use of Mr. Spofford’s comparison of Harvey Weinstein and my statement that Mr. Spofford should be prosecuted,” Kanioka Books.

Kanioka said he thought he would be able to check his comments before posting them.

“I regret making these statements. I had no first-hand personal knowledge of any sexual assault, misconduct or other inappropriate conduct by Mr. Spofford with employees, clients or former clients,” Kanioka Books. His letter is submitted as an attachment to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says NHPR has been aware of Kaniuka’s withdrawal since May 17, but has not made it public. It was mentioned, however, in an NHPR story about the lawsuit on Wednesday.

NHPR representative on May 19, Sigmund D. Schutz of PretiFlaherty in Maine, wrote attorney Benjamin Levine who wrote Schutz on behalf of Spofford on May 18. .

The article is based on countless hours of reporting, careful due diligence by NHPR investigative journalists, and interviews with nearly 50 former clients, current and former employees, and others in the New Hampshire recovery community. The article provides first-hand accounts that Mr. Spofford sent explicit, unsolicited Snapchat messages, including a picture of a penis and invitations to meet for sex, to a patient a day after she left treatment; Multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Spofford; and abusive leadership practices and retaliation by Mr. Spofford when he was CEO,” Schutz Books.

The lawsuit said Kanioka’s letter demanded that NHPR immediately delete the article. Schutz disagreed.

“In his letter, Mr. Kanioka asserts that he has made statements attributed to him by NHPR,” Schutz Books.

It does not dispute the accuracy of any of the information in the article. Nor can he object to any of the first-hand accounts of sexual misconduct, since in his letter he admits that he lacks “direct personal knowledge”. NHPR did not state that Mr. Kanioka was a witness to the sexual incidents described in the article.

“…Mr. Kanioka says he regrets what he said, but does not deny what he said. His regret appears to be caused by legal demands by you or by other lawyers working for Mr. Spofford. You write that Mr. Spofford did not pay for Mr. Kanioka’s letter, but his letter does not It could just be an automatic act of regret.” Schutz Books.

Schutz Gold: “You know, I’m sure, if Mr. Spofford made any legal claim, he would have a problem called the First Amendment. To make the obvious, Mr. Spofford is a public figure, and the NHPR article concerns matters of public interest. Thus, the article is entitled to the highest level of Constitutional protection.

Schutz concluded: “Mr. Kanioka’s letter does not deny or retract anything. Please withdraw your letter immediately and confirm that your company and Mr. Spofford will not make further demands on NHPR. Please also refrain from harassing NHPR sources.”

The lawsuit also alleges that NHPR defendants reported acts of vandalism that allegedly occurred in homes linked to NHPR employees who participated in the Spofford story.

Although the alleged vandalism first occurred in April 2022, the defendants at NHPR and the freelance reporter who works with them did not report the vandalism until late May 2022, according to the lawsuit.

“They deliberately weaponized a conspiratorial relationship between Eric and the alleged sabotage as a way for the NHPR defendants to walk away from their suppression of Kanioka’s retreat,” claim the lawsuit.

“There was not an iota of evidence linking Eric to the alleged vandalism—the alleged vandal was caught on camera and it was clearly not Eric. However, the only false inclusion from the NHPR story about vandalism is that Eric was the perpetrator,” The lawsuit said.

Spofford has lost its place as a leader in the substance use disorder recovery industry, according to the lawsuit.

“The financial institutions refused to do business with him, the sellers abruptly quit working with his companies, and he distanced himself from working with politicians in New Hampshire,” claim the lawsuit.

“He no longer feels welcome in New Hampshire – the state where he was born, raised, recovered from addiction, and then helped fight the opioid epidemic. His 11-year-old son was ridiculed for the defendants’ false statements and defamation.”

Attorney Strauss said in a phone interview that Spofford lives in Wyndham with his father and two sons, 11 and one.

“Why did Eric file this lawsuit primarily motivated by his children and two sons,” Strauss said. “They don’t deserve to grow up with this dark cloud hanging above their names that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

“The reason that motivates Eric is to protect his family and his name,” Strauss said.

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