MANHATTAN (CN) – After more than half a decade of bitter litigation with Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson, the National Jewish Democratic Council will finally have a sweet and happy new year.
On Monday, the first day of year 5780 in the Hebrew calendar, a New York federal judge ordered Adelson to pay up for what the Jewish nonprofit characterized as a campaign of “legal sadism” to bankrupt them.
“It’s a resounding decision in our favor,” the council’s attorney Richard Emery said in a phone interview.
The protracted battle dates back to July 2012 when the council distributed an online petition based on reporting that Adelson allowed prostitution in his Macau casinos.
“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 petition asked.
Adelson vehemently denied what he called a “blatant and reprehensible attack,” taking the matter to federal court a year later. The defamation claims swirled fprrom New York’s district and appellate courts for years before migrating to the Supreme Court of Nevada to address a then-unanswered question.
Is a “naked link” to public reporting — without some other form written citation — enough attribution to escape a libel claim?
The council resoundingly prevailed, winning a ruling that Adelson violated anti-SLAPP law, a statute to prevent frivolous or vexatious litigation.
In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken recounted how Adelson tried to turn the statute on its head.
“He puckishly avers that his initial defamation suit — even though it was dismissed as a SLAPP — was itself protected conduct under the anti-SLAPP statute,” the 24-page opinion states, using the abbreviation for strategic lawsuit against public participation.
Oetken found that attempt by the GOP mega-donor unpersuasive.
“Adelson has failed to demonstrate that his initial lawsuit was a ‘good faith’ communication,” he added.
Oetken ruled that Adelson must pay compensatory damages and legal fees. Additional claims for punitive damages will move ahead, and Emery revealed that he plans to depose Adelson in Las Vegas on Oct. 15.
There, Emery’s legal team plans to grill Adelson about 12 other cases in which the casino magnate sued parties in the hopes to “destroy them economically.”
“So, this is one in a long pattern of that kind of activity that we’re going to examine him about,” Emery said.
Just last week, the Las Vegas Sun filed an antitrust lawsuit against Adelson last week alleging a “modern-day smashing of the printing presses” by buying out his rival newspaper, The Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Adelson’s attorney Lee Armstrong did not respond to an email requesting comment.
The National Jewish Democratic Council and its former chairman Marc Stanley are seeking $24 million, if their claims for punitive damages are granted.