via Macomb Daily:
A Warren man afflicted with a rare disease sued a trio of celebrities, including Shaquille O’Neal, who ridiculed him over his appearance on social media.
Jahmel Binion, 23 at the time of the incident, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against O’Neal, Trey Burke and the rapper known as Waka Flocka Flame in Macomb County Circuit Court. He claims defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and general negligence for the incidents earlier this year.
“The defendants mocked and ridiculed the plaintiff, a person completely unknown to themselves in public forums where their activity would be widely disseminated,” the lawsuit says. “The defendants’ communications clearly implied that the plaintiff was an appropriate object of mockery, ridicule and shame” and “had the effect of lowering the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of those who respected the views and opinion of the defendants.”
O’Neal, a former NBA superstar, in April obtained a selfie photo that Binion posted on social media and took a picture of himself, making a face, and posted it adjacent to Binion on Instagram and Twitter. It was accompanied by the words, “Smile today.” Others joined in the online teasing, including former University of Michigan and current Utah Jazz basketball player Burke and rapper Waka Flocka Flame.
Binion has hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, a rare disorder characterized by a reduced ability to sweat, sparse hair growth, missing teeth and facial deformities.
Upon learning about Binion’s condition, O’Neal and Burke apologized and called Binion.
But Binion, who attended Madison High School in Madison Heights, told The Oakland Press in May that the apology came several days after the celebrities were criticized nationally by several media sources.
“When they said sorry, I felt like they were saying it to get the pressure off of them for being considered ‘bad people,’” Binion said. “Even though I accept their apology, I still hope that they donate to my cause or other organizations that connect with ectodermal dysplasia.”
In the lawsuit, Binion’s attorney, John Henke III, says the mocking photos “constituted a public disclosure of embarrassing private facts about the plaintiff” and “placed plaintiff in a false light in the public eye.”
The ridiculing was done “with reckless disregard to the harm that might be caused” to Binion, the complaint says.
The “offensive communications” were relayed to 8.4 million people, including many in Macomb County, the lawsuit says.
Binion, who was diagnosed with the disorder shortly after birth, said he has had trouble maintaining employment; he can’t work in hot conditions. He has lived beyond his life expectancy of five years upon diagnosis.
Binion has turned the turn of events into positive actions.
He started the Facebook group “Hug Don’t Judge.”
few weeks after the incident, well-known boxing manager Jackie Kallen arranged to have Binion and his cousin, Maxine Montgomery, picked up in a limousine and taken to a Dearborn Civic Center for her fighter Ray Edwards’ boxing match, where he was treated like a celebrity.
The lawsuit doesn’t name a damage figure but seeks more than $25,000.
O’Neal resides in Windermere, Fla., and has a residence in Massachusetts, the lawsuit says. Burke, whose legal first name is Alphonso Clark Burke III, lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, while Waka Flocka Flame, whose legal name is Juaquin Malphurs, resides in McDonough, Ga.
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