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High Court Rejects Appeal in Anthrax Libel Lawsuit

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate the libel claim of Dr. Steven Hatfill, once identified as a prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks. Hatfill accused New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof of effectively accusing him of bioterrorism "in the mind of a reasonable reader."

The justices, without comment, refused to revive the case after the 4th Circuit dismissed the claims in July.

Kristof wrote a series of articles that criticized the FBI's investigation of the attacks that killed five mail handlers and presented evidence pointing to Hatfill as a likely suspect. The columnist noted that Hatfill, a former biodefense research scientist, had access to anthrax, knew how to make it and had a motive.

The high court let stand the 4th Circuit's conclusion that Hatfill failed to meet the actual-malice standard for public figures.

Hatfill qualified as a public figure, Judge Niemeyer ruled, because he had "thrust himself into the controversy surrounding the threat of bioterrorism and the nation's lack of preparedness for a bioterrorism attack."

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