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Denver judge considers Trump’s anti-SLAPP defense against Dominion director’s defamation suit

A Dominion employee sued 15 actors who falsely reported he tried to rig the 2020 election.

DENVER (CN) — Attorneys representing the One America News Network and Donald J. Trump for President Inc. asked a Denver judge on Wednesday to dismiss defamation claims filed by a voting machine employee they falsely accused of rigging the 2020 election.

Following the 2020 election, podcaster Joseph Oltmann claimed he heard a man on a call identified as “Eric from Dominion” say he was going to make sure Trump lost. Through internet research, Oltmann said he concluded this referred to Eric Coomer, a director of product strategy and security at Dominion Voting Systems.

The spark caught and spread like wildfire, as it was picked up by the OAN, and repeated by the Trump campaign and attorneys Rudi Giuliani and Sydney Powell.

In his 2020 lawsuit, Coomer identified 15 individuals and companies that collectively made him the villain in the narrative of unbased claims of election fraud. Threats and harassment drove Coomer into hiding.

With 81 million votes, President-elect Joe Biden decidedly won 306 electoral votes and the 2020 election. The U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency declared the Nov. 3rd election "the most secure in American history."

Before Judge Marie Avery Moses, appointed by Democratic Governor Jared Polis, the defendant parties asked the court to dismiss the case under Colorado's anti-SLAPP law.

On behalf of OAN and their White House correspondent, attorney Blaine Kimrey asked the court to look for actual malice, or a reckless disregard for the truth.

“It’s not undeniable that the election was an issue of public concern,” Kimery said. “Colorado has broader protections under the First Amendment than other states.”

“It’s the polarization of this country this is tearing us apart. You have to view this case through that prism. You have to understand people with that polarity firmly believe their words,” Kimery said. “Malice is not about the objective truth.”

Judge Moses pushed back, asking about the ethical obligations of a journalist, asking when is one source enough and what role bias plays.

“What I heard you say is a journalist can put on very narrow blinders and I have to evaluate their reckless disregard of the truth through that?” Moses pressed.

Kimery concurred.

“You have to be a psychologist,” Kimery said. “You have to say ‘if I were Chanel [Rion],’ or ‘if I were Joe [Oltmann],’ would I believe this?”

“It was newsworthy, it was controversy, we were reporting what the president of the United States was saying, what Sydney Powell was saying, what Rudi Guliani was saying,” Kimery argued

On behalf of Coomer, Zachary Bowman of the firm Cain & Skarnulis countered that the anti-SLAPP laws shouldn’t even apply since he wasn’t a public figure until after the false news reached national attention.

“If the statement is ‘I rigged the election,’ and I’m an elections official isn’t that a matter of public concern?” Moses pressed.

Bowman disagreed.  

“Those charged with defamation cannot create their own defense by elevating that person to a public figure,” Bowman said. “Dr. Coomer is not an election, he is an individual and a lot of evidence in this case is built on things posted to his personal Facebook face.”

“These anti-SLAPP laws were created to prevent companies from chilling the First Amendment rights of people—you have the reverse here,” Bowman said.  

Bowman will continue his argument through Thursday. Judge Moses did not indicate when or how she will decide the motions in question, but issued decorum and civilities orders before the hearings started.

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Categories / Civil Rights, Government, Politics

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