The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by casino mogul Steve Wynn against The Associated Press over a story about two women’s accounts to police alleging he engaged in sexual misconduct.
The court cited state anti-SLAPP law in rejecting Wynn’s claim that he was defamed in the February 2018 AP article, which cited police documents. SLAPP, or strategic lawsuits against public participation, refers to court filings made to intimidate or silence critics.
“Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statutes were designed to limit precisely the type of claim at issue here, which involves a news organization publishing an article in a good faith effort to inform their readers regarding an issue of clear public interest,” the three-justice panel said in a unanimous opinion.
GREAT BASIN TRIBES CAMPAIGN TO GET SACRED NEVADA SITE PROTECTED, NAMED NATIONAL MONUMENT
Wynn had argued that the documents failed to fully describe elements of a woman’s account that would have cast doubt on her allegation that he raped her in the 1970s in Chicago and that she gave birth to their daughter in a gas station restroom.
Lauren Easton, AP vice president of corporate communications said in a statement that the news organization is pleased with the ruling.
“We believe the Nevada Supreme Court made the right decision,” Easton said.
Attorney Todd Bice, representing Wynn, said he was “surprised that the Court would change Nevada law and disregard the Nevada Legislature in order to extend legal protections to a news report that was determined to be false.”
He said Wynn’s legal team now is “considering all options.”
Wynn, the 82-year-old developer of a decadeslong casino empire, filed the lawsuit in April 2018 against AP, one of its reporters and Halina Kuta, the woman who made the claim. Two months earlier he had resigned as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts.
Wynn has consistently denied sexual misconduct allegations, which were first reported in January 2018 by the Wall Street Journal.
The case went to the state high court twice, after Clark County District Court Judge Ronald Israel first dismissed AP from the case in August 2018 on the grounds that it “fairly reported” information based on an official document, a police complaint by Kuta, even though authorities never investigated the allegation.
Las Vegas police said too much time had elapsed since Kuta said the events occurred in 1973 or 1974.
Neither accuser was identified in the AP report. Their names and other identifying information were blacked out in documents obtained by AP under a public records request. Las Vegas police refused to provide additional details.
The AP typically does not publish names of people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Kuta agreed to be named in later news reports.
The trial court judge later ruled that Kuta defamed Wynn with her claims, which the judge termed “totally fanciful,” and awarded Wynn a nominal amount of $1 in damages.
Wynn appealed Israel’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, where Bice argued in July 2020 that AP omitted relevant elements of Kuta’s complaint that would lead people to doubt the veracity of her allegation.
The high court reinstated the lawsuit in November 2020, saying Israel erred in dismissing AP from the case on fair report privilege grounds and instructing him to consider AP’s other arguments for dismissing the case under the Nevada anti-SLAPP statute.
Israel then granted AP’s motion to dismiss, and Wynn appealed again. The Supreme Court accepted written briefings but did not hear oral arguments again before issuing Thursday’s ruling.
Read the full article here