Billionaire Casino Mogul Loses Libel Claim
MANHATTAN (CN) - An article by the National Jewish Democratic Council alleging that Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s billionaire executive Sheldon G. Adelson "personally approved of prostitution" in his Macau properties is protected speech and not libelous, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken said in his 57-page decision that Adelson, 80, failed to state a claim for libel because the publication is protected as a "fair report of a judicial proceeding, which was properly attributed through its use of hyperlinks," and that the publication "otherwise consists of constitutionally protected opinion."
He also ruled that Adelson failed to show that the NJDC acted with actual malice
The casino mogul sued the council for $60 million in August 2012 after the story was posted on the group's website on July 3 and July 11.
Adelson, is worth $28.5 billion and is America's 11th richest person, according to Forbes magazine. He donated tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates and groups during the 2012 presidential election.
"Defendants' goal was to advance their perceived political interests by assassinating Mr. Adelson's character, punishing him for exercising his right to make monetary contributions to political causes and candidates of his choice, and demeaning him within the Jewish community," Adelson's lawsuit claimed.
Steven C. Jacobs, a former executive at the Sands China Ltd. and who was fired in 2010, sued Adelson for breach of contract. In his declaration, he said that executives informed him that a "prostitution strategy had been personally approved by Adelson."
Adelson claims Jacob knew the statement was false when he made it.
The NJDC in July 2012 then published a story to its website with the headline, in large capital letters: "If one of your biggest donors was accused of putting 'foreign money' from China in our elections & reportedly approved of prostitution, would you take his money?"
The site then connected the reader to an Associated Press article entitled, "Sheldon Adelson Approved 'Prostitution Strategy': Fired Former Sands Executive" in June 2012.
Adelson asked the NJDC to retract their statements, but the group declined.
Oetken said the petition in question "accurately quotes the AP article, which in turn accurately quotes the Jacobs declaration.
"Accordingly, the court concludes that the petition contains a fair and accurate report of the Jacobs declaration," he wrote.
Adelson also took issues with the use of the phrases "dirty" and "tainted" money by the Jewish group.
But Oetken was unmoved, stating that "these comments are constitutionally protected statements, as they are incapable of being proven true or false."