A federal judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky dismissed the defamation lawsuit by Nicholas Sandmann against five major media outlets.
Sandmann has filed several suits, including this one, for libel surrounding the events that took place in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2019, and the media coverage that followed.
The judge recently ruled on the case against Rolling Stone, CBS News, ABC News, The New York Times, and the Gannett company, which owns USA Today.
United States District Judge William O. Bertelsman ruled that motions for summary judgment be granted in favor of the five major news companies.
In Bertelsman’s opinion and order he specified that “Summary judgment is appropriate where ‘there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,'” going on to state the facts of the case that were largely undisputed by the parties about the events of the day in question.
“The Court allowed these cases to proceed to discovery based on the allegations of plaintiff’s complaints and a belief that some development of the context of this incident may be helpful,” Bertelsman said, before going on to address the freedom of speech component of the case.
Bertelsman went on to say that it was the court’s opinion, based on case precedent cited in the 21-page opinion and order, that there was no evidence brought to uphold the allegation the media companies violated legally predetermined constitutionally protected free speech.
The judge said in his conclusion that “the Court has reached its conclusions with fealty to the law as its primary concern, with no consideration of the rancorous political debate associated with these cases.”
Sandmann has also filed several other lawsuits, including with actions that alleged articles and broadcasts defamed Sandmann by mischaracterizing his actions toward Native American activist Nathan Phillips.
Sandmann’s original lawsuit included the assertion that “ABC’s reporting conveyed, among other things, the false and defamatory gist that Nicholas was the face of an unruly hate mob of hundreds of white, racist high school students who physically assaulted and harassed Native Americans who were engaged in peaceful demonstrations, song and prayer at the National Mall.”
According to a report by Law and Crime, Sandmann also brought suits against several other media companies which resulted in a settlement with CNN in January of 2020 and another when NBC settled in December 2021, though the total amount of those settlements is confidential.
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