Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Gilmore Lawsuit Moves Forward

by Scott Creighton

The following is taken from Judge Norman Moon's decision regarding our motion to dismiss in the Gilmore lawsuit. The decision was rendered yesterday and at this point I am not sure how I will proceed from here.

Defendants in this matter are as follows:

  • Scott Creighton (“Creighton”)  
  • James Hoft (“Hoft”) 
  • Lee Stranahan (“Stranahan”)
  • Lee Ann Fleissner, a.k.a.Lee Ann McAdoo (“McAdoo”)
  • Alex  Jones  (“Jones”),InfoWars,  LLC  (“InfoWars”),  and  Free SpeechSystems, LLC (“Free Speech Systems”)
  • Derrick  Wilburn (“Wilburn”), Michele Hickford (“Hickford”), and Words-N-Ideas, LLC (“Words-N-Ideas”)

The sections below the fold that I have carefully copied from the judge's decision relate to two sections that deal with 1. how Brennan Gilmore qualifies as a 'limited purpose public figure' 2. how the judge found our works to be of 'actionable' content published with 'actual malice'  3. the judge's specific findings in my own case and lastly, 4. the judge's refusal to consider motion for immunity and attorney's fees.

Allan West has been dropped from the lawsuit. All others remain.

I will be focusing a bit more on this action as I was waiting to hear what the judge was going to rule in the matter before providing additional cover on the story.

Depending on how I choose to move forward on this case, I will have to set up a GoFundMe in the near future for legal fees. Right now I am going to consult with my attorney, see what I owe so far and make a decision based on that. The judge didn't seem to care that I  simply posted my opinion on a little blog and that I am disabled living in Florida where I don't have a reasonable chance to defend myself adequately as per the 14th amendment of the constitution.

Ironic isn't it that the whole point of the 'controversy' stimulated by the conflicts at the Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville was one that centered on the unconstitutional argument that 'certain speech should not be allowed' and here we are with this guy suing us basically claiming the same thing with regard to reporting.

It's also interesting that Gilmore has said repeatedly that he hopes this lawsuit will make others 'think twice' before voicing their opinions online in the future.

the following is taken directly from Judge Norman Moon's decision:

B. Gilmore’s Defamation Claims

Defendants contend under Rule 12(b)(6) that Gilmore fails to state claims for defamation against  them.Under Virginia law, the elements of defamation are “(1) publication of (2) an actionable statement with (3) the requisite intent.”Choi v. Kyu Chul Lee, 213 F. App’x 551, 552 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Jordan v. Kollman, 612 S.E.2d 203, 206 (Va. 2005)). No party disputes that the statements at issue here were published online for third parties to view and digest.  Thus, the Court’s inquiry focuses only on  whether  Gilmore  adequately  alleges that  the  statements  at issue  are  actionable  and  that  Defendants  published  these  statements  with  the  requisite  intent.The Court first addresses what level of intent Gilmore must allege.

1.Gilmore Qualifies as a Limited-Purpose Public Figure.

“The requisite intent a plaintiff must prove in a defamation action depends upon the plaintiff’s status as a public or private figure.”  Reynolds v. Pionear, LLC, No. 3:15-cv-209, 2016 WL  1248866,  at  *5  (E.D.  Va.  Mar.  25,  2016).   Plaintiffs  who  qualify  as  private  figures  must show that the defendant  who published an allegedly defamatory statement either “knew it to be false, or believing it to be true, lacked reasonable grounds for such belief, or acted negligently in failing to ascertain the facts on which the publication was based.”  Askew v. Collins, 722 S.E.2d 249, 251 (Va. 2012). Plaintiffs who qualify as public officials, public figures, or limited-purpose public  figures  must  show  that a  defendant published the  allegedly defamatory  content  with “actual malice.”  Eramo  v.  Rolling  Stone,  LLC,  209  F.Supp.3d  862,  871  (W.D.  Va.  Sept.  22, 2016) (citing New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 279–80 (1964)). The Court defines the actual malice standard after assessing whether Gilmore qualifies as a private or public figure.

Gilmore is presumed to have been a“private individual at the time of publication, subject to defendants’ burden of proving” that he was a “public  official  or  a  limited-purpose  public figure.”  Id.  Defendants argue that Gilmore qualifies as a limited-purpose public figure.40(Dkts. 47 at 61–64; 57 at 18–19).  “When a person thrusts himself into the forefront of public debate, he is treated as a ‘limited-purpose public figure’ for purposes of comment  on  issues  arising  from that debate.”  Carr v. Forbes, Inc., 259 F.3d 273, 278 (4th Cir. 2001).   

In  deciding  whether  a  plaintiff  qualifies  as  a  limited-purpose  public  figure,  the  Court must ask “whether a public controversy gave rise to the defamatory statement[s]” and “whether the plaintiff’s participation in that controversy sufficed to establish him as a public figure within the context of that public controversy.”  Id.  Defendants must prove that “(1) the plaintiff had access  to  channels  of effective communication;  (2)  the  plaintiff  voluntarily  assumed  a  role  of special prominence in the public controversy; (3) the plaintiff sought to influence the resolution or  outcome  of  the  controversy;  (4)  the  controversy  existed  prior  to  the  publication  of  the defamatory statement; and (5) the plaintiff retained public-figure status at the time of the alleged defamation.”  Eramo,  209  F.Supp.3d  at  869  (quoting Fitzgerald v. Penthouse Int’l, Ltd.,  691 F.2d 666, 668 (4th Cir. 1982))

[40 Defendants aver that Gilmore is also a public official, since he is currently on leave from his role as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department.  (Dkts. 57 at 20, n.14; 90 at 17–18, n.11; Am. Comp. ¶ 13).The Court has serious doubts about the merits of this claim.  See Horne  v.  WTVR,  LLC,  893  F.3d  201,  207  (4th  Cir.  2018)  (noting  that  a  plaintiff  qualifies  as  a public official if he has, “or appear[s] to the public to have, substantial responsibility for or control over the conduct of governmental affairs”).  But the Court need not decide this issue, because Gilmore qualifies as a limited-purpose public figure, subjecting him to the same  actual malice standard applicable to public officials.]

Before assessing whether Defendants satisfy this test, the Court must make the“threshold determination” whether  a  public  controversy  gave  rise  to  the  alleged  defamation  and,  if  so, decide “the scope of the controversy.”Id.  A public controversy “must be a real dispute” that “in fact  has  received  public  attention  because  its  ramifications  will  be  felt  by  persons  who  are  not direct  participants.”   New  Life Ctr.,  Inc.  v.  Fessio,  229  F.3d  1143,  at  *4  (4th  Cir.  2000) (unpublished  table  decision) (quoting Foretich  v.  Capital  Cities/ABC, Inc.,  37  F.3d  1541,  1554 (4th Cir. 1994)).  The Court “defines the scope” of a public controversy “through a fair reading of the [publications] in [their] entirety.”  Eramo, 209 F.Supp.3d at 870.

Although  Gilmore  argues  that  “there  was  no  public  controversy”  giving  rise  to Defendants’ publications, (dkt. 70 at 50), he effectively concedes that such a controversy existed, stating that “the controversial aspects of the Charlottesville events were the broader questions of white supremacy and the meaning behind the rally and counter-protests.”  ( 50–51). Given this statement, and having reviewed Defendants’ publications, the Court concludes that a public controversy  about  the  meaning  underlying  the  Unite  the  Right  rally  and associated counter-protests gave  rise  to Defendants’ publications.   Although Defendants’ statements regarding a “deep state” conspiracy to orchestrate violence in Charlottesville were not themselves the subject of  a  genuine  public controversy, “it would be inappropriate to shrink all controversies to the specific statements of which a plaintiff complains.”  Eramo,  209  F.Supp.3d  at  870.    The  Court finds  that the publications’ broader focus on the  meaning  underlying  the Unite  the Right  rally and associated counter-protests was addressed to a public controversy on that subject.

The  Court  next  asks whether Gilmore’s “participation” in this controversy“sufficed to establish him as a public figure within the context of that public controversy.”  Carr, 249 F.3d at 278. Applying  the  five-factor  test  utilized  in  the  Fourth  Circuit, Eramo, 209  F.Supp.3d  at 869, the  Court  finds  that  Gilmore  qualifies  as a limited-purpose  public  figure  with  respect  to  the controversy surrounding the meaning of the Unite the Right rally and attendant counter-protests.

First, Gilmore plainly “had access to channels of effective communication.”  Id.  Gilmore uploaded  his  video  of  Fields’s  attack  to  his  Twitter  account  and  subsequently  “spoke  with multiple  television news  networks  and  other  news  media  to  provide  an  eyewitness  account.”(Am.  Comp. ¶¶32–34).   At  oral  argument, Gilmore  conceded  that  he  gave  interviews  to,  at  a minimum, CNN, NBC, and The New York Times in the hours and days following the rally, and that he wrote an online editorial for Politico on August 14, 2017 describing and analyzing what he witnessed in Charlottesville.

With respect  to  the  second  and  third  factors, Defendants  have established that  Gilmore “voluntarily assumed a role of special prominence in the public controversy” and “sought to influence the resolution” of the controversy.  Foretich,37F.3dat1553. Gilmore admits that he spoke with the press on multiple occasions in the hours and days after the rally, (Am. Comp. ¶¶32–34),  but asserts  that  he did  so only as a “witness to history in response  to  their  repeated requests.” (Dkt.  70  at  41).  But Gilmore’s media  appearances  went  beyond  serving  as  a  mere “witness to history.” Wells,  186  F.3d  at  537. Although  Gilmore  did  not solicit interview requests,he voluntarily “consented to appear” when asked, (Am. Comp. ¶ 35),  and  voluntarily penned  a Politico editorial  describing,  and  commenting  on  the  broader  significance  of,  what  he witnessed  at  the rally.    Having  reviewed a  transcript  of Gilmore’s August 13, 2017 appearance on CNN, as well as the text of the August 14, 2017 Politico editorial,41the Court observes that, in addition to providing a factual account of what he witnessed, Gilmore commented on the rally organizers’ ideological views and President Trump’s  reaction  to  the  rally.42 Such public commentary, even construed in the light most favorable to Gilmore, indicates that Gilmore was not “simply giving an eyewitness account of events that [were] no longer controversial. ” Wells, 186 F.3 dat 537. Rather,Gilmore“sought to influence” the resolution of the public debate about the  meaning  of  the rally.   Hatfill,532F.3dat319. Indeed, the  complaint  states that  part  of Gilmore’s motivation for posting his footage of Fields’s attack was to rebut “media outlets [that] were suggesting the incident was something other than a deliberate attack” by showing that the “attack was  a deliberate  attempt  to  injure and  kill  peaceful  counter-protestors.”  (Am. Comp. ¶ 31).    The  CNN  transcript  and Politico editorial  reflect  a  similar  motivation  to influence  the burgeoning controversy  about  the  meaning  of  Fields’s  attack  and the rally’s ideological underpinnings.Thus, the Court concludes that Gilmore “voluntarily assumed a role of special prominence in,” and “sought to influence the resolution of,” the public controversy surrounding the Unite the Right rally’s underlying meaning.  Eramo, 209 F.Supp.3d at 869.43

[42 For instance, Gilmore stated on CNN that the rally’s organizers were motivated by a desire  to  “deny  certain  classes  of  citizens  their  right  to  exist,”  and  that  President  Trump’s response  to  the  rally  was “a  failure  in  leadership.”(Dkt .90 at 17 (citing 2017  WLNR 25021156)). Similarly,   in   the Politico editorial,   Gilmore wrote that the violence in Charlottesville was a “logical outcome of our escalating, toxic politics of hate, ”that“ we now have a president who has emboldened white supremacists, ”and that “the president’s refusal to specifically denounce the groups responsible for the the kind of enabling that I have seen turn other countries into bloody war zones.”( 19, n.15 (linking to editorial)). ]

The fourth  and  fifth  factors  are also satisfied  here.The  controversy  about  the rally’s underlying meaning “existed prior to the publication” of Defendants’ articles and videos.  Id.  Gilmore alleges that “media  outlets” were  “already  suggesting”  that  Fields’s  attack  “was something other than a deliberate attack” prior to his Twitter post, which preceded Gilmore’s initial media appearances and the posting of Creighton’s American Everyman article (the first of Defendants’ publications).  (Am. Comp. ¶ 31). Moreover, Gilmore “retained public-figure status at the time of the alleged defamation,” since his media appearances on  the  subject  of  the  rally spanned  from  August  12,  201744(the day  before Creighton’s article was published) through, at least, August 24, 2017 45(three days after the publication of Jones’s video, the last of Defendants’ publications).  (Dkt. 90 at 15–19).
[44 Gilmore alleges that his media appearances began as early as August 12, 2017.(Am.Comp.¶¶33–35). Questions  remain  at  this stage  about  the  exact  timing  of these initial media appearances.    However,  as  discussed  below,  Gilmore  has  plausibly  alleged  actual  malice—a more  stringent  pleading  standard  than  he  would  have  to  meet  as  a  private  figure—against Creighton.  Thus, even were he not a limited public figure at the time of Creighton’s publication, Gilmore has satisfactorily stated a claim for defamation against Creighton.]

In  sum,  the  Court  finds  that  Gilmore  qualifies  as  a  limited  public  figure  and  must therefore  allege  that  Defendants  published  their  allegedly  defamatory articles  and  videos  with actual  malice.  The  Court  now  turns  to  whether  Gilmore adequately alleges that Defendants’ publications were actionable and published with the requisite intent.

2.Gilmore Adequately Alleges that Defendants’ Publications are Actionable and were Published with Actual Malice.

To survive Defendants’ motion to dismiss, Gilmore must plausibly allege that Defendants published “actionable statement[s]”with  actual  malice.Choi, 213 F. App’x at552.Under Virginia  law,  “[a]n  actionable  statement  is  one  that  is  both  false  and  defamatory.”   Id.  Actionable statements must also be “of or concerning” the plaintiff.Eramo,  209  F.Supp.3d at 875.   See also Gazette, Inc.v. Harris, 325S.E.2d713,738(Va.1985)(noting that a plaintiff need only show “the publication was intended to refer to him and would be so understood by persons reading it who knew him”). False statements are those that “contain a provably false factual connotation.”  Tronfeld  v.  Nationwide  Mut.  Ins.  Co.,  636  S.E.2d  447,  450  (Va.  2006).  Defamatory statements are those that tend to “harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him.”  Choi, 312 F. App’x at 552.   See  alsoChapin  v.  Knight-Ridder,  Inc.,  993  F.2d  1087,  1092  (4th Cir. 1993)  (noting  that  defamatory  words “are  those  that  make  the  plaintiff  appear  odious, infamous, or ridiculous”).

The First Amendment “provides protection for statements that cannot ‘reasonably [be] interpreted as stating actual facts’ about an individual.”  CACI  Premier Tech.,  Inc.,  v.  Rhodes, 536  F.3d  280,  293  (4th  Cir.  2008)  (quoting Milkovich  v.  Lorain  Journal  Co.,  497  U.S.  1,  20 (1990)).    Such  protection  applies  to  “rhetorical  hyperbole,  a  vigorous  epithet,”  and  “loose, figurative, or hyperbolic language.”  Milkovich, 497 U.S. at 17, 21.  See also Yeagle v. Collegiate Times, 497 S.E.2d 136, 137 (Va. 1998) (noting that “rhetorical hyperbole” is not actionable even if “insulting, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate”).

However, “a defamatory  charge  need  not  be  made  in  direct  terms;  it  may  be  made  by inference, implication, or insinuation.”  Perk v. Vector Res. Grp., Ltd., 485 S.E.2d 140, 144 (Va. 1997).   See  also  Eramo,  209  F.Supp.3d  at  876  (noting that if a “reasonable  fact finder  could conclude” that the statements “imply an assertion [of fact],the statements are not protected”).A “[defamation]-by-implication  plaintiff  must  make  an  especially  rigorous  showing  where  the expressed facts are literally true.”  Chapin,  993  F.2d  at  1092–93.    The  defamatory  implication must be “present in the plain and natural meaning of the words used” such that the words can be “reasonably  read  to  impart  [a]  false innuendo.”   Id.   See  also  Tronfeld,  636  S.E.2d  at  450 (“Although a defamatory statement may be inferred, a court may not extend the meaning of the words   beyond   their   ordinary   and   common  acceptance.”).In evaluating defamation-by-implication claims, “every fair inference that may be drawn from the pleadings must be resolved in the plaintiff’s favor.” Webb  v.  Virginian-Pilot  Media  Cos.,  LLC, 752  S.E.2d  808,  811  (Va. 2014) (quoting Carwilev. Richmond Newspapers, 82 S.E.2d 588, 592(Va. 1954)).

Statements  of  opinion—defined as statements that are “relative in nature and depend largely upon the speaker’s viewpoint”—are “generally not actionable because such  statements cannot be objectively characterized as true or false[.]” Jordan,  612  S.E.2d  at  206.    However, “[f]actual statements made to support or justify an opinion . . . can form the basis of an action for defamation.”  Tharpe  v.  Saunders,  737  S.E.2d 890,  893,  n.3  (Va.  2013).    Since  expressions  of “opinion” can “often imply an assertion of objective fact,” the U.S. Supreme Court has “refused to ‘create a wholesale defamation exemption for anything that might be labeled ‘opinion’.”  Id. (quoting Milkovich, 497 U.S. at 18). 

“Whether a statement is an actionable statement of fact or non-actionable  opinion  is  a matter of law to be determined by the court.”  Jordan,  612  S.E.2d  at  206–07.    In  making  this determination, courts should not “isolate parts of an alleged defamatory statement” but rather must consider the statement “as a whole.”  Gov’t Micro Res., Inc. v. Jackson, 624 S.E.2d 63, 69 (Va.  2006).   See  also  Eramo,  209  F.Supp.3d at  875 (noting that courts should “look[] to the context  and  tenor”of the publication in  deciding  whether  statements  “convey a factual connotation”).  “On a motion to dismiss a [defamation] suit because of no actionable statement, the court must of course credit the plaintiff’s allegation of the factual falsity of a statement.”  Chapin, 993 F.2d at 1092.

As  a  limited-purpose  public  figure,  Gilmore  must  also  allege  that  Defendants  published their  statements with actual  malice.   A  statement is  published  with  actual  malice  where  a defendant has “knowledge that it was false” or acts with “reckless  disregard  of  whether  it  was false or not.”  New  York  Times  Co.,  376  U.S.  at  280.    A  defendant’s “failure to investigate” or observe  journalistic  standards, although not  determinative, is  relevant to  the  actual  malice inquiry.  Eramo, 209 F.Supp.3d at 871–72.  See alsoBiro v. Conde Nast, 807 F.3d 541, 546 (2d Cir. 2015) (“[R]eliance on anonymous  or  unreliable  sources  without  further  investigation may support an inference of actual malice”).  A defendant’s “[r]epitition of another’s words” that the “repeater knows” are “false or inherently improbable” is similarly non-dispositive  but  relevant, as is “evidence that a defendant conceived a story line in advance” and then“set out to make the evidence conform”to  that  story.Eramo, 209  F.Supp.3d at  872(citations  omitted).   See  also Harte-Hanks Commc’ns., Inc. v. Connaughton, 491 U.S. 657, 668 (1989) (noting that, although “courts must be careful not to place too much reliance on such factors,” it “cannot be said that evidence concerning motive or care never bears any relation to the actual malice inquiry”)

“[C]onclusory allegation[s]” and “mere recitation[s]” of the actual malice standard are insufficient.  Mayfield v. Nat’l Ass’n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012).  “Nevertheless,  because actual  malice  is  a  subjective  inquiry,  a  plaintiff is  entitled  to prove  thedefendant’s  state  of  mind  through  circumstantial  evidence.”   Spirito  v.  Peninsula Airport Comm’n, 350 F.Supp.3d 471, 481 (E.D. Va. 2018).  Gilmore “need only plead sufficient facts that, if proven, create a plausible inference”of actual malice.Id.The Court now examines each publication to assess whether  Gilmore  adequately alleges that Defendants’ statements a reactionable and were published with actual malice.

i.Creighton’s American Everyman Article & Video 

Gilmore alleges that Creighton’s August  13,  2017 American  Everyman article “falsely implies his knowledge of and participation in Fields’[s] attack” by asserting“as a fact” that “Gilmore’s presence during the car attack was due to his foreknowledge that the attack would happen.”  (Am. Comp. ¶¶39–43).Creighton allegedly wrote the following:

Not only did [Gilmore] HAPPEN to be at the right place at the right time, but he was  ALREADY  recording  with  his  camera  and  it  was  focused  on  that  car,  for SOME REASON as it drove by the corner at a reasonable rate. . . . But Brennan wasn’t filming [other cars in front of Fields’s car] was he? No. But he did film the Charger  heading  all  the  way  down  the  street  into  the  crowd  of  protestors  .  .  . almost as if he knew it would run into them rather than simply brake and sit and wait  like  the  other  cars  in  front  of  it.   Again,  not  a  smoking  gun  in  and  of  itself, but  when  combined  with  all  the  other  coincidences  surrounding  his  video  PLUS the fact that he was ready to go with the divide and conquer establishment version of  events  for  CNN  while  people  were  still  lying  on  the  hot  pavement,  it  kind  of makes you wonder, doesn’t it? [. . .]

[I]s it possible this man with links to Special Ops and CIA and various other black ops kinds of actors just HAPPENED to be there at a particular moment in history? Yeah, I guess that’s possible, if you’re into coincidence theories I suppose.  But I’m not into such  things.  Clearly  the  State  Department  has  a  lot  of  disgruntled former employees who would delight in destabilizing Trump’s tenure even more than  they  already  have.  And  Gilmore,  like  Tom[Perriello],  seem[s]  particularly invested  in  undermining  the  ‘alt-right’  in  the  lead-up  to  the  next  round  of elections. Waaaaaay too much coincidence for me folks. Waaaaaay too much.

51(Id. ¶38; dkt. 29-1 at 4, 9).

Creighton allegedly made  similar statements about  Gilmore in  his August  13,  2017 American Everyman video, stating the following:

[Gilmore] just happened to be there, at the specific place, where he could film the whole  thing  .  .  . He  just  happened  to  have  his  camera  running,  he  just  happened for some reason to record this car driving for five seconds, before it did anything out  of  the  ordinary,  and  just  happened  to  have  the  right  message,  just  the  right establishment  message  for  CNN.  .  .  .  [Gilmore]  has  ties  to  special  operations, special  forces,  CIA,  State  Department,  Hillary  Clinton,  and  Tom Perriello,  who has  a  long  career  of  doing  this  kind  of  thing.  People  will  call  me  a  conspiracy theorist  because  what  I  am  suggesting  here  is  that  someone  had  foreknowledge, that this event was going to happen. . . . This man has every reason to want to see the support, the base for Donald Trump again mischaracterized as Nazis. . . . This guy  just  happens  to  be  on  that  fucking  corner  with  his  camera  rolling,  watching that car drive by for five seconds, and he’s former State Department, and close to Tom Perriello, who is also former State Department obviously, he’s got a fucking ax to grind, that’s one hell of a goddamn coincidence, and you got to be a special kind of stupid to buy that.”(Am. Comp. ¶46). 

Gilmore plausibly alleges that Creighton’s statements about him were false, defamatory, and  published  with  actual  malice.   Creighton’s  statements in both the  article  and video  are “reasonably capable of conveying the defamatory innuendo” that Gilmore filmed Fields’s attack because he had foreknowledge of the attack and as part of an effort to use the rally to undermine President  Trump  and the “alt-right.” Pendleton  v.  Newsome,  772  S.E.2d  759,  765  (Va.  2015).  Creighton’s statements about  Gilmore  are  not  reasonably  characterized  as mere  expressions  of opinion. Pure  expressions  of  opinion generally  are  not  “subject  to  objective  verification.”  Eramo,  209  F.Supp.3d  at  875.   But Creighton’s insinuation that Gilmore filmed Fields’s attack because he had foreknowledge of the attack and intended to use the footage for political purposes is “capable of being proven true or false.”  Fuste v. Riverside Healthcare Ass’n, Inc., 575 S.E.2d 858, 862 (Va. 2003).  Thus, Gilmore has adequately alleged that Creighton’s statements “contain a provably false factual connotation.”  Tronfeld, 636 S.E.2d at 450.

Moreover,  Gilmore plausibly alleges that  Creighton’s  statements  were  defamatory.  Creighton’s insinuation that Gilmore had foreknowledge of a violent attack and filmed it for clandestine  political  purposes is precisely the sort of factual assertion that would tend to “harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community,” “deter third persons from associating” with him, and make him “appear odious” or “infamous.”  Choi, 312 F. App’x at 552.  Indeed, Gilmore asserts that Creighton’s publications “exposed [him] to  hatred and  contempt,”  and“deterred  friends,  acquaintances,  and  members  of  the  community  from associating”  with  him.46 (Am.  Comp. ¶ 50). Furthermore, Gilmore  adequately  alleges  that Creighton’s statements are defamatory per  se under Virginia law because,  at  a  minimum,  they would tend to“prejudice”  Gilmore  in  his  “profession  or  trade.” Fuste,  575  S.E.2d  at  861.  Creighton’s insinuation that Gilmore had advance knowledge of a violent attack and filmed it to undermine the President of the United States“casts aspersions” on his honesty and “carr[ies] the connotation” that he “lacks the integrity and fitness” to serve as a diplomat.   Tronfeld, 636 S.E.2d at 450; JTH Tax, 8 F.Supp.3d at 741.

Finally, Gilmore’s allegations are sufficient at this stage to create a “plausible inference” that  Creighton  published  his  statements with  actual  malice. 47 Spirito, 350  F.Supp.3d  at  481.  Citing  examples,  Gilmore alleges  that  Creighton  has  published  previous  articles  “accusing individuals and government entities of staging controversial and newsworthy events.”  (Am. Comp.¶¶57,  n.35;59,n.37).   Gilmore presents  these previous  articles as  evidence that Creighton “conceived a storyline about the events in Charlottesville” and then “consciously  set out  to  make  his  false  statements”  about  Gilmore  “conform”  to  that  storyline. (Id. ¶59). Additionally, Gilmore alleges that Creighton “departed from even the  most  basic  journalistic standards” by, for instance, failing to “reach out” to him to“confirm the story’s statements.” (Id. ¶¶51–56).   These allegations are concrete and amount to more than a “mere recitation” of the actual  malice  standard:  Gilmore points  to  specific  articles  Creighton  previously  published  and has a personal factual basis to know whether Creighton ever solicited comment or confirmation from  him. Mayfield,674  F.3d  at  378.   Although  neither the pursuit of a preconceived  narrative nor a  failure  to  observe  journalistic  standards is  alone ultimately  enough  to  establish  actual malice, Gilmore’s factual allegations, taken  together, are  sufficiently  plausible  to support an inference  that  Creighton  published  statements  about him with  actual  malice.   See  Spirito, 350 F.Supp.3d at 481;Eramo, 209 F.Supp.3d at 871.

In sum, the Court finds that Gilmore plausibly alleges that Creighton’s statements in the American  Everyman article  and  video  are  actionable  and  were  published  with  actual  malice.  Accordingly, Creighton’s motion to dismiss Gilmore’s defamation claim will be denied...

V. Defendants’ Motions for Immunity & Attorneys’ Fees under § 8.01-223.2

Defendants move for immunity and attorneys’ fees under Va. Code § 8.01-223.2.  (Dkts. 46;  56;  58). Section8.01-223.2 provides that “[a] person shall be immune  from  civil  liability” for  a “claim  of  defamation  based  solely  on  statements  .  .  .  regarding  matters  of  public  concern that  would  be  protected  under  the  First  Amendment  to  the  United  States  Constitution  made  by that person that are communicated to a third party.”  However,immunity does not apply “to any statements  made  with  actual  or  constructive  knowledge  that  they  are  false  or  with  reckless disregard for whether they are false.”54Va. Code § 8.01-223.2(A).  Since Gilmore has plausibly alleged defamation  with  actual  malice  against  all  defendants  except  West—who  will  be dismissed  for  lack  of  personal  jurisdiction—Defendants’ motions for  immunity  under § 8.01-223.2 will be denied.  Moreover, Defendants’ motions for attorneys fees and costs under §8.01-


  1. Gilmore went live on national tv broadcast boasting about his video and showing it....while the people were still on the pavement waiting for medical help. He caused his own hatred actions against him.

  2. Isn't that something. Gilmore showed his live action-filled video of a terrorist attack, complete with bodies flying through the air and the death of a young woman, and the Google and Youtube did nothing to stop the spread of those videos.