Past Public Enemy #1 member William Austin says the History Channel’s Gangland endangered his life when they put private pictures of him on-air without his permission. In a 10-page complaint filed today, (Read it here) Austin says he’s received “death threats” and now “constantly fears for his life and is in daily anguish as a result of the unauthorized publication of his likeness.” Images of Austin were shown on season six of Gangland on April 21, 2010 in an episode entitled “Public Enemy #1” about the notorious SoCal white supremacist gang of the same name. The series, profiling America’s most violent and powerful criminal groups, ran from November 1, 2007 to September 24, 2010 on the History Channel.
A&E Television is owned by the Hearst Corporation and Disney-ABC Television Group, who own 42.5% each, and NBCUniversal, which owns the remaining 15%.
Citing emotional distress and a knowing and “conscious disregard” of his rights by the show’s producers, the former PEN1 member is seeking at least $50,000 plus other damages and fees “in an amount according to proof at trial” from A&E Television Network, owners of the History Channel, and Gangland Productions. Austin turned government witness against PEN1 leader Donald “Popeye” Mazza after Mazza and others, including a fellow gang member who was Austin’s child’s godfather, tried to stab him to death in 1999. Admitting that his whistleblower role garnered him some “notoriety,” Austin now describes himself as “a devout Christian.”
William Austin is representing himself against A&E Television and Gangland Production in the civil case.