Judge William O. Bertelsman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky opened the door for the $275 million lawsuit against NBC by a 16-year-old high school student.
Nicholas Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School, had sued NBC for defamation after its coverage of an occurrence near the Lincoln Memorial with Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist. NBC’s video depiction of the event showed Phillips and Sandmann literally standing face to face while Phillips pounded on a drum and Sandmann stood there and smiled.
The NBC Report
NBC reported that Sandman “blocked” Phillips and “did not allow him to retreat,” but the complete video shows Phillips approaching the teen who remained calm and still. Sandmann and his classmates had been attending the March for Life. They had been wearing Make American Great Again hats. Phillips had been attending the Indigenous Peoples March.
Now in Discovery Phase
Judge Bertelsman’s ruling involved a motion to dismiss Sandmann’s lawsuit in it’s entirety. Although certain counts were dismissed, Judge Bertelsman allowed others to proceed to the discovery phase of the litigation. His ruling was consistent with other lawsuits filed by Sandmann against The Washington Post and CNN. If the news reports by NBC were false, they would likely be libelous.
One of Sandmann’s lawyers labeled the decision as a “huge win.” NBC did not comment. What the decision means is that Sandmann’s attorneys can now request information and documents from NBC in connection with the lawsuit. Judge Bartelsman is the same judge who denied a similar motion to dismiss that was brought by The Washington Post in a defamation lawsuit that was also brought by Sandmann.