A federal court in Kentucky denied a motion by the New York Times to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed Covington Catholic high school student Nick Sandmann.
Sandmann — who has sued a total of seven media outlets after videos surfaced of a January 2019 incident showing the then 16 year old and classmates outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. — claims the Times libeled him by reporting he “blocked” Native American activist Nathan Phillips and “prevented Phillips’ retreat while Nicholas and a mass of other young white boys surrounded, taunted, jeered and physically intimidated Phillips," Law & Crime reported.
“It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,” Phillips told the Times. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”
Sandmann, who recently began working for the reelection campaign of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., alleged the Times article resulted in him being harassed, and caused emotional distress.
In a six-page order, Senior Judge William Bertelsman rejected the Times’ contention that the article was “a standard piece of investigative journalism” and therefore not libelous.
Law & Crime posted the decision.
Bertelsman argued that similar to Sandmann’s lawsuits against other news outlets, several of the statements in the article should have been further vetted for accuracy prior to publication.
“Defendant published a statement by Phillips that was made after Sandmann had departed for home, a statement to which Sandmann had no opportunity to reply in real time. While Sandmann had such an opportunity later, and such evidence might be admissible to show lack of malice, it is not a defense to the defamatory meaning of Phillips’ original statement itself," the judge wrote.
The Times also argued that Sandmann’s lawsuit, filed a little more than 13 months after the date of the incident, was barred by the one year statute of limitations for defamation claims.
Bertelsman shot that down as well.
“Of course, Sandmann was 16 years old at the time of these events. And, under [Kentucky law] the running of a statute of limitations is tolled where the plaintiff is a minor, until he or she reaches the age of 18,” he wrote.
“Thus, Sandmann had one year following his eighteenth birthday, which occurred in July 2020, to file his claim.”
Other dismissal motions denied Thursday related to Rolling Stone, ABC and CBS, WXIX reported.
Sandmann agreed to settlements with CNN in January and with The Washington Post in July. He initially sued NBC Universal as well.
In March, he brought additional suits against the Times, Rolling Stone, ABC and CBS as well as Gannett, WXIX reported.
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