On Friday afternoon, real estate agent John Hanna received a cell phone message from a longtime friend. Hanna was in Temecula, Calif. visiting his son for the holidays.
In the phone message, Hanna's friend assured him that "no matter what you have done, I'll defend you to the death."
That was Hanna's first clue that something was wrong and it was the beginning of what must be many's worst nightmare.
While he was gone on vacation, Hanna had been falsely accused of a crime in the pages of the Payson Roundup.
The article, "Man arrested after threatening nephew with gun," published on 12A in the Dec. 29 edition of the Roundup, listed "John Hanna, a real estate agent" as being arrested for domestic violence and aggravated assault, among other charges.
In reality, the crimes were allegedly committed by a 45-year-old Star Valley resident named John Hannar.
It was a case of mistaken identity and sloppy journalism.
Hanna has been a real estate agent in Payson for 35 years. He is well-respected and, as the outpouring of e-mails and phone calls that followed the article prove, he is well-loved.
"His reputation is spotless," said a former business partner and longtime friend, Bob McQueen.
"People believe what they read in the newspaper," Hanna said, when I called him in California. "My whole career is based on trust and honesty and my credibility.
"People depend on me with their life savings.
"I want people to understand how unfair it is for people who don't have their facts straight to slander your name."
The article in question was written by reporter Michael Maresh. He has been a reporter in Arizona and New Mexico for 11 years.
When word got out in town that John Hannar had been arrested, it didn't take long before the gossip mill had shortened the name and people were gasping and gossiping about John Hanna's arrest.
If a newspaper is doing its job, our article would have quickly snuffed this ridiculous line of gossip. Unfortunately, we failed our readers on this day.
Maresh got swept up in the wave of gossip and, without checking his facts, printed not only the incorrect spelling of the name, but listed the profession of a man who had nothing to do with the alleged crime.
"I didn't confirm it," Maresh said. "It was unprofessional for me to not verify who the person was. I know it won't make it right, but I am very sorry for any damage that it has done to his reputation."
While this is a rare occurrence in the Roundup, steps have been taken to ensure this does not happen again.
The Roundup staff would like to publicly apologize to John Hanna and to our readers.