The relatives of a dead man whose body was filmed in Atlanta by rapper T.I. have sued the artist, complaining that the airing of the corpse on television was disrespectful and done without their consent.
The suit, filed by the family of Joseph Williams, contends that his father, Joseph Williams Sr., and other relatives suffered mental distress after footage of his body was shown in a February 2009 episode of the MTV reality show "T.I's Road to Redemption."
A funeral home employee made a false statement, "stating that the parents didn't know what happened to their son," says the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Fulton County State Court.
The Haugabrooks Funeral Home on Auburn Avenue near downtown Atlanta is listed among the defendants. The company was paid to cremate the body, the suit says. A representative was not immediately available for comment Friday. Neither was T.I., whose real name is Clifford J. Harris Jr. He is in a federal prison in Arkansas on weapons convictions, with a scheduled release date in September.
The premise of the reality show was to scare youths into leading crime-free lives.
In the first episode, entitled "You Are Responsible For Your Own Actions," Harris shows a young man a corpse at Haugabrooks. A mortician says the man was a "hustler" and says the man's parents don't know how he really died. The face of the dead man is out of focus in the video that was available online at MTV's website Friday.
The lawsuit contends that Harris, the funeral home, MTV and the others involved in the making of the video "carelessly mishandled" the body "for financial gain and publicity." It seeks unspecified damages for mental pain and suffering and emotional distress.