Covington Catholic student can sue Washington Post - iMediaEthics

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The Washington Post in 2011 (Credit: Flickr/Daniel X. O'Neil)

Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic student who went viral earlier this year for his interactions with Native American activist Nathan Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial, can sue the Washington Post for libel.

As iMediaEthics previously reported, Sandmann sued the Washington Post over its reporting on him. In July, his lawsuit against the Post was dismissed. He is also suing CNN and NBC Universal.

Judge William O. Bertelsman ruled that Sandmann can sue over three statements.

While Bertelsman ruled previously the lawsuit should be thrown out because the reporting was protected opinion, “the judge reconsidered on Monday, saying he would permit discovery to proceed on three statements contained in Post articles, specifically that Sandmann had ‘blocked’ Phillips as he ascended the memorial’s stairs and ‘would not allow him to retreat,'” the Post itself reported.

The Oct. 28 ruling from Bertelsman rejected libel claims over 30 statements in the initial report, so Sandmann can sue over three claims about him having “blocked” Phillips and not letting Phillips “retreat.”

Bertelsman ruled, “Suffice to say that the Court has given this matter careful review and concludes that ‘justice requires’ that discovery be had regarding these statements and their context. The Court will then consider them anew on summary judgment.”

The Post declined to comment to iMediaEthics on the ruling. Sandmann’s attorney Lin Wood told iMediaEthics, “To persuade the trial court to reverse itself on a portion of an earlier but recent order dismissing the entire case is a huge win for Nicholas. Significantly, the ruling opens the door for Nicholas to obtain discovery from the Post. Unfortunately, the trial court did not correct other significant legal errors in its prior order so the legal team must consider all options, including an appeal of the order, in advance of the December conference set by the court.”

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Covington Catholic student can sue Washington Post

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