Burke Ramsey, the brother of child beauty-pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey, who was killed more than 22 years ago, settled a defamation lawsuit against CBS Corp. and several others on Friday, his lawyer told NPR.
Ramsey, who was 9 years old at the time of the grisly killing, sued CBS, in 2016 after the network aired a two-day documentary series that included the theory that the boy had slain his 6-year-old sister.
Burke’s attorney, Lin Wood, told NPR in an email that the lawsuit has “been amicably settled to the satisfaction of all parties.”
“For almost 20 years, it has been my privilege to represent John Ramsey, Patsy Ramsey (before her untimely death in 2006) and their son, Burke in a number of defamation lawsuits,” Wood said. “It is now my professional and personal wish for this family that they no longer suffer the pain of false accusations in the future. I sincerely hope the CBS case is my last lawsuit for these fine clients and friends.”
A CBS spokesman agreed that “the case had been amicably resolved.”
The final settlement amount was not disclosed, but the complaint, filed in Michigan, was seeking no less than $250 million in compensatory damages and no less than $500 million in punitive damages.
JonBenét’s brutal death was the subject of a massive investigation by law enforcement officials in Colorado, and the mysterious circumstances of her killing captivated the public for decades, spawning countless conspiracy theories.
The girl was killed inside her Boulder home during the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 1996. She was discovered by her father, John Ramsey, in the basement of the house strangled and with a fractured skull.
As NPR reported, a grand jury decided to indict “John and Patsy Ramsey on two counts each of child abuse, but that the prosecutor declined to sign the indictment against the couple.”
Specifically, the indictment “alleged that the parents permitted JonBenét to be placed in a dangerous situation that led to her death and it accused them of helping whoever killed the girl,” the Denver Post reported.
However, in 2008, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy, formally apologized to the girl’s parents in a letter, saying no one in the Ramsey family was considered a suspect. Lacy added that new DNA evidence, unavailable in 1996, pointed to an unknown male as JonBenét’s killer.
“To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry,” Lacy wrote.
No one has been charged in the case and the investigation is still open.
Ramsey’s lawsuit against CBS, Critical Content, the production company behind the four-hour documentary, and seven others involved, including James Kolar, author of Foreign Faction, a book that posited JonBenét’s brother as the killer, noted that he had never voluntarily participated in any media or public interviews concerning his sister’s death until he learned of the project.
“In September of , following decades of silence and only after learning that CBS was planning to broadcast a JonBenét Ramsey show based on Foreign Faction in which it would accuse him of killing JonBenét, Burke exercised his right of reasonable response by granting one interview to Dr. Phil McGraw in which he denied any involvement in JonBenét’s murder,” the complaint reads.
Between 1999 and 2000, Ramsey sued several publications and networks for publishing material accusing Burke of committing the gruesome crime. They were all dismissed after confidential settlements, the lawsuit says, noting that “no member of the tabloid media or the mainstream media has ever again accused Burke of being involved in—or suspected of—JonBenét’s murder.”
“That is, until CBS aired the Documentary,” the document continues.
The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey, as the series was called, purported to be a complete “reinvestigation” of the cold case and promised to feature a cadre of experts who had independently reached the same conclusion as that presented in Kolar’s book: that the 6-year-old beauty contestant’s brother had killed her.
The complaint argued that those involved in the making of the documentary were not motivated by authentic reporting but rather set out “to accomplish their goals of achieving ratings and profits.”
It contended: “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public—instead of being a documentary based on a new investigation by a so-called team of experts, The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey was a fictional crime show based primarily on a preconceived storyline scripted in a self-published and commercially unsuccessful book, Foreign Faction.”