Gaetz Could Be Washington’s Latest High-Profile Defamation Defendant – Thelegaltorts

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Gaetz Could Be Washington’s Latest High-Profile Defamation Defendant – JONATHAN TURLEY

We discussed a number of defamation measures this year. Indeed, for a pie professor, this could prove the golden age of defamation. Recently, new such cases have been filed against Fox News, CNN and various public figures. These cases combine with various cases against people like Donald Trump, who recently lost an important decision. It is now likely that Florida MP Matt Gaetz will be sued in the ongoing scandal that includes sex trafficking allegations. Like many others, I was surprised to see Tucker Carlson’s interview with Gaetz on the first night of the scandal and to hear Gaetz talk to the attorney (and law firm) he claims blackmailed by name (and at a law firm ) identified. That attorney is former Justice Department attorney David McGee, who is believed to be filing a defamation lawsuit against the congressman. For Gaetz (38), this could turn out to be a “double click”, who could face a criminal complaint and civil action due to the scandal.

Gaetz denies having ever had a relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Instead, he presented a detailed account of the efforts to blackmail him for $ 25 million in a bizarre scheme to secure the release of the hostage Robert Levinson, a former DEA and FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 Mission for the CIA at the time.

Gaetz issued a statement: “In the past few weeks, my family and I have been the victims of organized criminal blackmail involving a former DOJ official who sought $ 25 million while threatening to smear my name.”

David McGee worked for the Justice Department and has served as a lawyer for 37 years. Today he practices in Florida at Beggs & Lane.

Both Gaetz and McGee are referring to a call McGee had with Gaetz’s father, who reportedly recorded the call at the request of the FBI. Both Gaetz and McGee insist the call will clear them up. Unknown sources deny the call contained McGee’s blackmail request.

If Gaetz’s report is wrong, this is a particularly severe case of defamation. The blackmail allegation would fall into a category of defamation per se. Per se, these categories usually include (1) “crediting certain crimes” to the plaintiff; (2) “Crediting. . . a hideous disease ”to the plaintiff; (3) “Crediting. . . unchastity towards a woman; “or (4) defamation” affecting the plaintiff in his business, trade, profession or office. “In Florida, the courts describe such acts as follows:

“A written publication is, per se, defamation under Florida law if, when viewed alone and without allusion, (1) accuses a person of having committed a notorious crime; (2) tends to be subject to hatred, suspicion, ridicule, contempt, or shame; or (3) tends to hurt someone in their job or profession. “

Alan v Wells Fargo Bank, NA, 604 F. App’x 863, 865 (11th Cir. 2015).

This would meet both categories per se for alleging criminal conduct and damage to a professional reputation. Broadcast news is treated as slander rather than slander in most states. However, there are also written statements from Gaetz in support of a defamation lawsuit (with suspected damage). “The importance of classifying a communication as inherently actionable lies in the fact that its victim does not need to claim or prove malevolence (except where it is a privilege) or special harm due to malice and the occurrence of allegations [sic] Damages are both suspected on the basis of the nature of the defamation. “Wolfson v. Kirk, 273 So. 2d 774, 777 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1973).

One question will be McGee’s legal status and whether he is a public figure.

This issue will turn Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 US 323, 352 (1974) and his descendants of cases. The Supreme Court has ruled that public figure status applies when someone “bumps into”[s] get into the vortex of [the] public edition [and] engage[s] public attention to influence the outcome. “Publicly available personal status with a limited purpose applies when someone” pulls “voluntarily[s] Paying attention to yourself “or allowing yourself to be part of a controversy” as the fulcrum to create a public discussion. “Wolston v Reader’s Digest Association, 443, US 157, 168 (1979).

The standard for defamation of public figures and officials in the United States is the result of a decision made against Sullivan in the New York Times decades ago. This is exactly the environment in which the opinion was drafted and he is exactly the type of plaintiff that the opinion should put off. The Supreme Court ruled that tort law cannot be used to override the protection of freedom of speech or the free press provided by the First Amendment. The Court sought to give the media some “respite” by formulating this standard, which now applies to both civil servants and public figures.

McGee is likely a public figure, having handled high profile cases and conducted public interviews. If so, McGee must show either actual knowledge of his falsehood or a reckless disregard for the truth in order to prevail.

This is usually a very difficult standard to meet, but this case can be an exception. Gaetz is sticking to an open and direct blackmail demand: 25 million US dollars and the allegations of sex trafficking would disappear. Gaetz further claims that the call will show such a scheme.

It’s hard to believe that the phone call showed such intense blackmail when the FBI listened and didn’t arrest McGee. Instead, sources suggest that Gaetz is being prosecuted in connection with Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector who was charged with sex trafficking last summer.

We still have surprisingly little confirmation of basic facts like the existence of this underage girl. A defamation case seems obvious, however, unless that call is Gaetz’s alleged evidence of a smoking gun.

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