Downwardly Mobile 

A few folks outside Detroit took notice of last week’s piece about FOX 2 television reporter Charles Eric Leaf, who is accused of scuffling with a Cass Corridor shop owner while on assignment. Thanks to the wonders of the Web, that story was a hot topic in Mobile, Ala., where Leaf worked for NBC affiliate WPMI in 1998 and ’99. Leaf made news in Mobile too. The Mobile Register newspaper published a profile and several other news stories about the telejournalist.

Turns out Leaf was well-known down in Dixie for his, ahem, quirky reportorial style.

According to the articles, Leaf (he uses the first name Eric here, in Mobile it was Charles) was either fired or quit WPMI after being accused of assaulting a Loxley, Ala., councilwoman and a WPMI news photographer in separate incidents. The Register quoted Leaf saying that the incident with the photographer, in which police were called to the station in December 1998, was “blown out of proportion.” The councilwoman’s claims of “willful physical attack,” he said, were “baseless.”

Criminal charges were not filed in either case, but Councilwoman Frela Griffin Wojciechowski filed a civil suit against Leaf and WPMI, alleging that the former Marine and graduate of Syracuse University injured her by causing a car door to hit her in the arm and leg as she tried to leave a town council meeting in 1999 without commenting for Leaf’s story.

In the Detroit case, Flying Dutchman shop owner Sebastian Graham accuses Leaf and a cameraman of using homophobic slurs and of trying to force their way into the building to get at a neighborhood youth, hiding inside, who had pelted the news crew with eggs. Graham told police he was hit in the face by the cameraman, and he is pursuing charges of assault against both the cameraman and Leaf. Leaf and cameraman Marcus Dion Myers have a very different version of what happened, and they are a pressing charges of assault against Graham.

Detective Ronald Murphy said both versions of events that occurred Oct. 26 have been sent to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

The self-declared Problem Solvers at FOX 2 offered another lame “no comment” when we came a-questioning this week.

“Our company’s policy is that we have no comment,” said Jeff Murri, FOX 2 general manager. “There are two sides to every story, you know that. Unfortunately, I’m not in the position to give the other side of the story.”

But, like any good problem solver knows, “no comments” don’t make a story go away. Stay tuned.

Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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