Kai Spears sues New York Times for falsely reporting he was at January shooting


CW File

Alabama men’s basketball team at the SEC Tournament on March 11 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN

Jacob Ritondo, Assistant News Editor

UA men’s basketball player Kai Spears filed a lawsuit on May 31 against The New York Times over a story the publication ran that claimed he was present with teammate Brandon Miller at the shooting that caused the death of Jamea Harris on Jan. 15. 

Darius Miles, another former basketball player for the University, and his friend Michael Davis were both charged with and indicted on capital murder charges tied to the shooting.  

At a previous court hearing for Miles, Investigator Branden Culpepper of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit testified that Miller and another teammate, Jaden Bradley, were present at the shooting. Miles had asked Miller to bring him his gun, which was in Miller’s car.  

Published on March 15, the Times story claimed that a fourth basketball player, Spears, was also present, according to information gathered from an anonymous source.  

After the story’s publication, Spears and his father, who is the director of athletics for Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, both released statements claiming the Times’ reporting was false and that Spears was not at the scene of the shooting. Spears’ statement was made in a now-deleted Instagram post, while his father’s statement was released via Marshall University’s website. 

Greg Byrne, director of athletics for the University, also released a statement disputing the Times’ reporting on March 16. 

According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit charges the publication with defamation, libel and false-light invasion of privacy. It also claims that the publication refused to remove erroneous content from its story despite repeated complaints that the information was false.  

In response to the lawsuit, the Times added an editor’s note to its story on June 2 that acknowledged that the publication had falsely reported that Spears was present in Miller’s car at the time of the shooting.  

The note added that further reporting had found that Cooper Lee, a student manager for the basketball team, was actually the one in the car with Miller. This note came after Lee emailed the Times to say that he, not Spears, was present and in Miller’s car. 

Deidre Stalnaker, director of communications for the University, declined to comment on behalf of the University on the lawsuit.