HuffPo Story on Arsonist Evades Defamation Suit

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – A congressional candidate from Minnesota waited too long to sue The Huffington Post over an article labeling him an “arsonist,” the 8th Circuit ruled.
     Jack Shepard’s, a 2010 candidate for the Republican nomination in Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District, had claimed that he was defamed by an article titled “Support Jack Shepard, the Arsonist, for Congress,” which The Huffington Post published in May 2010.
     Shepard said he “was never convicted of arson.”
     “I have formally asked the prosecutor’s office in Minnesota on many occasions to drop the clearly unsupported charge of arson going back to 1982,” according to the complaint Shepard filed pro se in June 2012. “It related to an alleged arson of my own house. The basis of this very old charge is evidently fragile and not believable: there is no evidence, no motive (no insurance benefit or other advantage accruing to me), no means. Which explains why the charge was not proceeded with and I haave not been convicted (even in absentia)! I have always affirmed my innocence and indicated the likely true authors, but to no avail.
     HuffPo’s May 2010 article also described Shepard as “cloistered in Italy,” having fled to Europe to escape prosecution and work as a dentist.
     Shepard claimed that the article destroyed his dental practice in Italy overnight and that “it is no longer possible for me to get a fair trial because millions of people believe the Huffington Post as a credible source of information and people will believe by viewing the headline that I am a convicted arsonist.”
     A federal judge dismissed the suit with prejudice in November 2012, however, after finding that Shepard had exceeded the statute of limitations.
     Shepard claimed it the clock had been reset because HuffPo updated the article to include new information, but a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit affirmed dismissal.
     “Under [the] single-publication rule, [the] statute of limitations begins to run when mass-produced publication is first released to public; incidental republication does not restart statute of limitations,” according to the unsigned decision, citing Church of Scientology of Minn. v. Minn. State Med. Ass’n. Found.
     Shepard also claimed his service in the military extended the statute of limitations, but the panel dismissed the argument, writing that “we agree with the district court that none of his submissions indicated that he was on active military duty at any relevant time.”

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