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Nick Sandmann’s defamation lawsuit against Washington Post dismissed by Judge Bertelsman


Staff report

One of three lawsuits against national news media filed by lawyers for then-Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann has been dismissed by Eastern District Federal Judge William O. Bertelsman.

Bertelsman heard oral arguments in Covington earlier this month in the $250 million lawsuit against the Washington Post.

Lawsuits against CNN and NBC are pending. In all, Sandmann sued for amounts totaling $750 million.

Sandmann and Philipps

The suits stem from the extensive coverage of an incident at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. last January about a confrontation between students from Covington Catholic High School and Native American Nathan Phillips. A video posted of the incident went viral, creating a firestorm of reaction and prompting national media coverage.

In the video, Sandmann is staring at Phillips as Phillips leads a chant with other Native Americans who were participating in the Indigenous Peoples March. The student was vilified on social media for being disrespectful of the elder Philipps.

Sandmann had traveled with Covington Catholic students to D.C. to participate in the March for Life and were sightseeing before leaving to return home.

Sandman and his attorneys, Todd McMurtry and L. Lin Wood, argued that The Post’s first story suggested that Nick had assaulted or physically intimidated Nathan Phillips and engaged in racist taunts.

Judge Bertelsman wrote that “this is not supported by the plain languages in the article, which states none of these things.”

Captured from the video

Bertelsman wrote that “As the Court explained at oral argument on this motion, in modern libel law there are many affirmative defenses, even for blames based on defamatory statements. These defenses are calculated to protect defendants, especially the press, from strict liability.

“The defense that a statement of opinion is not actionable protects freedom of speech and the press guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“The Court accepts Sandmann’s statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not to impede or block anyone.

“However Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being “blocked” and “not allowed to “retreat.” He passed those conclusions on to The Post They may have been erroneous, but, as discussed above, they are option protected by the First Amendment. And The Post is not liable for publishing those opinions . . “

Bertelsman also wrote that it was irrelevant to the defamation case that Sandmann was scorned on social media.


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12 Comments

  1. Greg says:

    Ahh, too bad punk. You didn’t get a payoff on your lame lawsuit.

    • L. Huesman says:

      It wasn’t about a payday. It was about justice and an out of control, inaccurate and biased reporting of events involving a minor, in this case, but if they can do it to him, what makes you think it cannot happen to anyone. If they dont know the facts, they should not print or post a story. No one should have to undergo what he and his family have been put through.

  2. duke says:

    Where is the Truth Judge???

  3. Gary Johnston says:

    The suit was dismissed per the 1st Amendment. Bertelsman basically said that the media could get it wrong and still be protected. This is a huge boost for fake news everywhere.

  4. Robin says:

    People applauding this dismissal are forgetting that this allows media to spread opinions about a person, hide behind the claim they’re only reporting opinions, which then will affect the person or persons spoken about without them allowed to defend themselves. These kids got libelled, they had death threats, and they were smeared as racists due to how media spread opinions about them and the interpretation of their actions.

    Anyway, this is not over as it is going to a higher instance, as it should.

  5. hybridium says:

    Judge was appointed by Jimmy Carter – nuff said.

  6. Sam says:

    This will be appealed and will go all the way to SCOTUS.

  7. ruth bamberger says:

    There are numerous precedents where the courts have dismissed cases similar to this one. A challenge to the 1st Amendment freedom of the press imposes a strong burden of proof on the part of the plaintiff
    that the publication maliciously intended to libel the individual. The judge in this case made the right decision.

  8. Mia says:

    The other problem with the Sandmanns legal strategy is that they threatened a lawsuit against Phillips and any news organization that Trump supporters would deem mainstream. They cast a rather wide net for their fishing expedition. If they appliednthe same standard to Fox News as CNN, et.al., then Fox would be out of business if this suit succeeded.

  9. Bev says:

    Mia, You are exactly right. People want to pick and choose where the 1st amendment applies. This was the right decision. The lesson here is you don’t put high school kids in a situation like this. I’m not sure why high school boys would be at a Right to Life march to begin with.

  10. Richard says:

    I hope this will lead to a socialist communist takeover in the big cities. I’m ready to part ways with my private property and collect my monthly credit check. I personally plan on playing basketball most days.

  11. Patti says:

    U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman dismissed the Nick Sandmann case! I am more than distraught! As this action liberates ALL media sources to produce a tsunami of untruths in print about under age youth! I am extremely disappointed in an 83 year olds decision to disregard the protection of the emotional well being of America’s youth.

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