No Slander in Baldwin’s Account of Purloined Parking Spot

MANHATTAN (CN) Lawyers for Alec Baldwin applauded a judge Friday for tossing a slander claim tied to the Manhattan parking spot brawl that got their famous, and famously hot-headed, client arrested.

“We’re pleased with the ruling,” Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel said in a phone interview this afternoon, also speaking on behalf of his co-counsel Luke Nikas. 

Alec Baldwin walks out of the New York Police Department’s 10th Precinct in New York on Nov. 2, 2018, after he was arrested for allegedly punching a man in the face during a dispute over a parking spot outside his New York City home. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Wojciech Cieszkowski, a Polish immigrant and contractor, brought the suit in April, about two months after Baldwin pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of harassment.

The melee erupted a year earlier on East 10th Street when Cieszkowski, 49, swung into an open parking space that a relative of Baldwin had apparently been blocking for the actor.

As Cieszkowski told it, Baldwin emerged in a frothing rage from his SUV, shouting profanities, shoving him in the chest with both hands and finally striking him in the jaw as he attempted to pay the meter.

Following his prosecution, however, Baldwin played down the incident in media interviews.

“Did I have an argument with the guy? Yeah, I thought he was going to run my wife over with his car when he was stealing my parking spot,” Baldwin said on “The Ellen Show” in February. 

Baldwin, who turned 61 this year, also told radio personality Howard Stern the other driver was “really fast, and really aggressive.” 

Manhattan Supreme Court Acting Justice David Benjamin Cohen agreed Thursday to nix Cieszkowski’s slander claim, saying the actor’s use of phrases like “really fast” and “really aggressive” are hyperbole and lacking in precise meaning.

“A review of the videos and the transcripts of the two shows demonstrates that defendant was indeed describing his impressions, his state of mind, and his thought process during the occurrence,” Cohen wrote. “Hence, as defendant was describing his own opinion of what he saw, no action for defamation under a slander per se theory lies.”

Baldwin’s statements furthermore seem to accuse Cieszkowski, at worst, of reckless driving, Cohen wrote, noting that this is not a particularly serious accusation.

“Here the words stated by defendant are not words that accuse plaintiff of a specific crime or ones that are easily understood to accuse of a crime,” Cohen wrote.

They are not necessarily favorable words to Cieszkowski, but “they are words of frustration with someone’s driving,” the ruling states.

Cieszkowski’s lawyer Jonathan Abady did not return a request for comment Friday. 

The parties are scheduled for a preliminary conference Feb. 19 at 9:30 a.m. on Cieszkowski’s remaining civil claims for assault and battery.

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