Convicted drug trafficker sues local newspaper for libel

Front page of The Zapta Times

A newspaper, which published a story about a man who pled guilty to a federal drug case, is being sued in federal court.

According to a libel lawsuit filed in McAllen's federal court this week, convicted drug trafficker Jose Daniel Mercado is going after The Zapata Times and its parent company Hearst Communications.

Hearst Communications owns The Zapata Times but also large newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle.

Mercado alleges claims that The Zapata Times committed libel and placed him in a false light.

According ot the lawsuit, The Zapata Times published two separate stories side by side.

One involved Mercado in a fedearl drug case while the other involved a former teacher Javier Reyes, who was facing sexual assault charges.

According to the lawsuit, Mercardo alleges that two separate stories were placed in such close proximity to each other that people incorrectly believe he was the suspect in the sexual assault.

The court documents say that the placement libels Mercado.

Documents also say that his photo was placed in plain view on the front page along with another individual.

Assault arrest appeared in bold on the front page and was larger than the name of the newspaper The Zapata Times," the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the newspaper caused great embarrassment because people from Mercardo TMs community have approached him about seeing his photo and accused him of participating in a crime he did not commit.

The lawsuit states that Mercado is not a public figure the paper violated his right to privacy by publishing personal facts which caused public ridicule and embarrassment.