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Veteran files suit over role in film

Says `Fahrenheit' distorted his views

By the time Iraq war veteran Sergeant Peter J. Damon learned he was an unwitting star in Michael Moore's 2004 movie ``Fahrenheit 9/11," he already had a lot of explaining to do.

Relatives wanted to know why the 33-year-old Damon, a staunch supporter of the war effort and President Bush, agreed to be in a movie that was harshly critical of both, his lawyer said yesterday. Friends wanted to know why Damon, who lost both his arms in a helicopter repair accident, was portrayed as a veteran who had been left behind when, in fact, military medical personnel had helped him learn to use his artificial arms and veterans groups had helped build his family a new house in Middleborough, the lawyer said.

This week, Damon sued Moore and several film production companies for $85 million and plans to tell a jury exactly what he told his friends and relatives: that Moore included him in the movie without his permission and misrepresented his stand on the war, said his lawyer, Dennis Lynch.

``It was an injustice," said Lynch, of Nyack, N.Y. ``Michael Moore used 9/11 as a weapon of mass defamation."

Damon, who served in the National Guard, was not available for an interview last night. But he told CBS4 television yesterday that he felt betrayed by the filmmaker, who is known for skewering conservatives and corporations in his documentary films and books.

``It was kind of almost like the enemy was using me for propaganda," Damon told the television station. ``What soldier wants to be involved in that? I didn't lose my arms over there to be used as ammunition against my commander-in-chief."

Lynch said Damon did not know he was in the movie until it was already in theaters. In the film, Moore used a clip of an interview with Damon conducted by NBC for a story about medical treatment being received by veterans.

In the clip, Damon, who was still hospitalized at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, described the intense pain in his arms, which were both severed at the elbow.

``But they [the pain-killers] do a lot to help it," he said. ``And they take a lot of the edge off of it." While Damon made no political statements, Moore positioned the clip after an interview with US Representative Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat and a critic of Bush and the war.

In the interview, McDermott says: ``You know, they say they're not leaving any veterans behind, but they're leaving all kinds of veterans behind."

Inserting the MSNBC interview with Damon after the McDermott clip made it appear that Damon believed he had been ``left behind," the Suffolk Superior Court lawsuit states.

``The work creates a substantially fictionalized and falsified implication as a wounded serviceman who was left behind when plaintiff was not left behind but supported, financially and emotionally, by the active assistance of the president, the United States and his family, friends, acquaintances and community," the lawsuit states.

Moore could not be reached for comment yesterday. Requests for interviews from the movie companies named in the lawsuit -- Miramax Film Corp. , Lions Gate Films , IFC Films , and Westside Productions -- were not immediately returned.

Lynch said it could take a year or longer for the defamation lawsuit to go to trial.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

National Guard Sergeant Peter J. Damon lost both his arms in a helicopter repair accident.
National Guard Sergeant Peter J. Damon lost both his arms in a helicopter repair accident. (Tom Herde/ Globe Staff)
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