Overshadowed by Obama’s farewell speech and Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings were two important court rulings this week. A lawsuit brought by the father of “Clock Boy,” Ahmed Mohamed was dismissed, and the Supreme Court refused to hear arguments in Jesse Ventura’s defamation case against the Chris Kyle family.
All in all, it has been a good week for justice and freedom in the courts. But then, it is only Wednesday!
Last September, Mohamed Mohamed filed a suit on his and his son’s behalf against CSP (Center for Security Policy), its executive vice president, The Blaze, Inc., its founder Glenn Beck, Fox News, and several conservative pundits, including Ben Ferguson and Ben Shapiro, all of whom criticized Ahmed.
I went back and looked. All major news outlets covered the event; however, I find it curious that only the “conservative” media outlets were singled out. Maybe curious is not the right word.
In September 2015, Ahmed Mohamed brought a “clock” he had built to school. It was a clock, with wires exposed and carried in a briefcase. One teacher suggested he not carry it around, but of course, he did. The authorities were called, and the 14-year-old was briefly arrested.
The father’s position was that because of their religion, they were singled out for unfair treatment. I would suggest if the boy were white, he would have been arrested, expelled, and we would have never heard another word. In reality, the father’s statements and the immediate involvement of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) made this whole affair stink from the get go.
While the father and supporters suggested Ahmed was a brilliant child and was being singled out, someone had the audacity to look into the “clock,” which was determined to be nothing more than a Radio Shack clock, disassembled and put in a briefcase. Ben Shapiro, in an appearance on Fox News, called it a hoax saying that, “This was a setup and that President Obama fell for it because it confirms a couple of his pre-stated biases against police and against people who he perceives to be Islamaphobic.”
It was later reported that the boy’s father was serving pizza to the news media. In the following months, the father kept the case in the public eye. A fundraiser for Mohamed was promoted by CNN; he visited Google; he met the Islamist Prime Minister of Turkey and Sudan’s Islamic leader. Time Magazine named him one of 2015’s top 30 most influential teens (I’m sure that one is true!). The Saudi government funded his Mecca pilgrimage, and he met with President Obama.
On Monday, Dallas County District Judge, Maricela Moore, dismissed the suit, with prejudice which means the case can never be brought again.
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) representing CSO argued that the suit was a “classic Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, a SLAPP case and should be dismissed. Twenty-eight states have laws protecting the public against lawsuits designed to shut out comments and change behavior.
Judge Moore asked Mohamed’s lawyer, Susan Hutchison of Fort Worth, to provide any facts supporting the claim of false or defamatory said by the defendants. A CSP statement said that “After spending a painfully embarrassing 15 minutes flipping through reams of paper, Mohamed’s lawyer was unable to provide any such evidence.”
David Yerushalmi, counsel for AFLC, issued a statement saying the lawsuit was “yet another example of Islamic warfare.”
It seems to me, CAIR uses the same tactic as the ACLU and others to silence those with whom they disagree.
The news involving Jesse Ventura is less appealing in that it is more a good news, bad news story.
Jesse Ventura is a former Navy Seal, pro wrestler, former governor of Minnesota, and most recently, promoter of government conspiracies. Five years ago, Ventura filed a suit against “American Sniper” author, Chris Kyle, accusing Kyle of stating lies about him in his book. Kyle had stated in interviews that the man he punched in a bar was Ventura.
Kyle died in 2013, after being shot by a veteran he was trying to help. Public opinion, which was not favorable towards Ventura for filing the suit, really turned on him after Kyle’s death, and Ventura continued against the widow and estate. In 2014, Ventura prevailed in a jury trial, and was awarded $500,000 for defamation and $1.35 million for unjust enrichment.
However, this past June, a federal appeals court threw out the judgment awarded to Ventura. Kyle’s widow, Taya, had appealed the $1.8 million judgment using the First Amendment and other factors. One key issue was whether Kyle acted with “actual malice.” When statements are made about public figures, it must be proven that it was false or with reckless disregard.
Ventura argued that the story about Kyle and him in the bar was the reason for the popularity and success of the book and ensuing movie. Kyle’s attorneys argued that no other court had ever awarded unjust enrichment over a defamation case. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear arguments leaves the Appellate Court decision as final.
The good news for Taya Kyle is that this $1.8 million judgment has been thrown out. The bad news is that Jesse Ventura is free to file another suit, and he has said he will. The appellate court said that Ventura’s attorneys improperly allowed the jury to hear that there was insurance to cover the defamation claim, and that the idea was that there were “deep pockets” to pay any award.
We live in an increasingly litigious society. Lawsuits are filed to deny rights, silence opposition and financially destroy “opponents.” Our legal system is a vital part of our republic, and as Paul Harvey famously said, “With increased liberty comes increased responsibility.”
A good thing can be used with evil intent. Sometimes we’ll get it wrong, sometimes the “bad guy” will win. To me, the “clock boy” story is a classic setup- designed for attention, money, and is used to establish new and special ground rules. We may never know the truth in the Kyle/Ventura story. Often the truth lies somewhere in the middle. One thing is for sure, Jesse had just about fallen off the radar, and he’s been back on for about five years.
There’s a popular theory that all publicity is good publicity. That is not true in all cases. However, time will tell. In the end, we have a natural right guaranteed by the First Amendment to say whatever we want, and any attempt to silence that, had better be done on very a sound basis. We do not have a right to “not” be offended or to “not” see or hear anything we do not like.