A sex fetish master whose ‘pup’, submissive, died after silicone was injected into his scrotum is suing Network Ten over a report his lawyer argues portrayed him as a murderer.
The November 2018 report on The Project centred on the death of Melbourne man Jack Chapman, whose enlarged scrotum was a feature of his public kink relationship with United States man Dylan Hafertepen.
Mr Chapman, also known as Tank Heathcliff Hafertepen, died of multiple respiratory issues and a condition related to injected silicone in Seattle in October 2018.
The 12-minute TV report, republished to Ten's catch-up service and The Project's Facebook and Twitter pages, featured Mr Hafertepen being invited to the home of Mr Chapman's mother where covert cameras had been set up.
Linda Chapman told the US man the cameras were set up for the coming wake, before accusing Mr Hafertepen of being "wholly and solely responsible for my son's death".
She also questioned why her son's will had recently been updated.
In a statement of claim filed with the Federal Court, Mr Hafertepen says the ‘over-sensationalised’ report defamed him in seven ways.
He also argues Ten caused harm by tricking him into giving an interview - in Ms Chapman's home - without informing him it intended to publish the matter complained of and under false pretences.
"It's a very serious allegation - causing the death of his partner in order to inherit his money," Mr Hafertepen's barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, told the court in Sydney on Monday.
"This broadcast, it will be the applicant's case, was republished worldwide and caused him to lose a senior position working for Google."
Mr Hafertepen claims Ten wrongfully portrays him as endangering Mr Chapman's life by introducing him to dangerous body manipulation and master/servant role play, of engaging in domestic violence and procuring the silicon Mr Chapman injected into his testicles.
Ten told the court it will defend the case on the grounds the report was true and subject to qualified privilege.
It sought two extra weeks to file its defence. The network said lawyers were busy. Producers and the journalist involved - Hamish Macdonald - needed to be interviewed and evidence re-examined to see if it had changed in the year since its airing.
Documents may also be sought from Ms Chapman's civil case in the US against Mr Hafertepen in which she accuses him of wrongful death.
“This is a very serious case, with very serious imputations,” Ten's barrister Lyndelle Barnett said.
”Any truth defence will be very detailed.”
Ms Chrysanthou said lawyers should not be granted more time to find evidence to back The Project's report.
“If a national broadcaster wants to call someone a murderer, it should have all of its evidence in place before doing so,” she said.
Ten told the court the statement of claim didn't mention the loss of employment at Google, leading Ms Chrysanthou to say she needed to seek instructions about whether to file an amended statement of claim.
Justice Anna Katzmann granted Ten an extra week, meaning the defence must be filed by December 13.
Mr Hafertepen was ordered to serve any claim for economic loss or loss of earning capacity by December 20. The case is scheduled to return to court on February 11.
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