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MONTVALE, N.J. -- The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. here has already fired the two college-age brothers who worked at its Califon, N.J. store and created a spoof gangster-rap video "Produce Paradise" in the store where they worked. Now the supermarket operator is suing Mark and Matthew D'Avella for $1 million in damages.
The defamation lawsuit, filed Aug. 24 in state Superior Court in Flemington, N.J. against the D'Avellas, alleges that the video has led to at least one complaint by a "disgusted and distressed" shopper who stopped patronizing A&P because of "repulsive acts" in the video, which can be viewed on YouTube and the brothers' own Web site, www.fakelaugh.com.
"A&P management's position on this matter should be self-explanatory," the company said in a statement. "Producing a video that intentionally and unjustly depicts our company in a negative light, and utilizing company facilities without management knowledge of the specific content involved, is obviously a blatant violation of our policy."
The retailer further said it would seek "the removal of any and all videos about the company from the Web site where [they have] been posted by the individuals."
The 4-minute, 16-second video, shot at the Califon store, portrays the brothers posing as a fictitious rap group, the Fresh Beets, and engaging in various actions with produce.
As a result of the video, which was posted online Aug. 6, the brothers were suspended from their jobs Aug. 16, and officially fired Aug. 23.
On their Web site, the brothers are keeping a blog on their job and legal woes, and provide a Web link for their supporters to complain to A&P headquarters. They also plan to sell "Fresh Beets" T-shirts to help pay legal costs.
The D'Avellas told a local newspaper that they filmed the video last month after their shifts ended, and were careful to keep out of sight of shoppers. Although A&P notes that one brother wears a hat with a distinguishable A&P logo in the video, the D'Avellas counter that the logo is not noticeable.
The brothers have a combined decade of service at the grocer. Their father has been an A&P employee for over 30 years, and five other family members have also have worked for the chain.