A federal judge on Monday ruled against Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire Las Vegas casino owner and political donor, in his libel lawsuit against the National Jewish Democratic Council for comments the group made in an article against Adelson in the closing days of the 2012 elections.
Adelson, chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., claimed that the council libeled him by urging Republican candidates to refuse his donations because the money was linked to prostitution, The Associated Press reported. He filed a lawsuit for $60 million.
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Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken said that the larger context of the council's article and difficulty of proving or disproving their claim led him to conclude that "statements that Adelson's money is 'dirty' or 'tainted' constitute constitutionally protected opinion."
He also said Adelson failed to show that the council acted with actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.
"The statement by the National Jewish Democratic Council at issue in this case remains a boldfaced lie," Adelson's attorney L. Lin Wood said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Wood told Reuters the ruling denied Adelson's "basic right of trial by jury," and that he will likely appeal.
Forbes magazine recently named Adelson, 80, the 11th-richest man, worth $28.5 billion. He donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates and organizations in the 2012 election cycle.
The Associated Press reported that the council claimed it had used mainstream media reports about a lawsuit filed against Adelson's casino in their story.
"It was a great day for the First Amendment," Marc Stanley, chairman of the council told The Associated Press. "I think it sends a message that no matter much money you have, you can't bully people into suppressing free speech."
In the waning days of the 2012 race, the council posted an article telling Republican candidates, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, they should reject donated money from Adelson. The story claimed Adelson "personally approved" a prostitution strategy for his casinos in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.
A fired former Sands executive who is currently suing the company for wrongful termination made the same allegations against Adelson, that he knew about prostitution. Adelson has continuously denied the wrongdoing.
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