Parents of Slain Political Staffer
Revive Lawsuit Against Fox News
A federal appeals court reinstated a lawsuit last week filed by the parents of a Democratic National Committee staff member who was murdered in Washington, D.C. on July 10, 2016.
The parents claim a Fox News story about the murder of Seth Rich falsely implied it was politically-motivated. D.C. police say the unsolved murder appears to have been a botched armed robbery. He was shot twice in the back in the Bloomingdale neighborhood.
Nevertheless, Fox News broadcast a story in 2017 titled "Slain DNC Staffer Had Contact with WikiLeaks Say Multiple Sources," It implied that Rich was murdered in retaliation for participating in a conspiracy to leak Democratic Party emails to the investigative news website Wikileaks, according to the lawsuit.
Fox News later retracted much of the story. Rich’s parents sought punitive damages in a lawsuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress and interference with contract.
The lawsuit says Fox News tried to build its story partly by enticing the Riches to hire a private investigator who also was cooperating with the television network. The reporter then quoted the private investigator for the story alleging a conspiracy.
A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, saying the Fox News reporter and producers did nothing that proved conduct outrageous enough to support an emotional distress claim.
The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York disagreed. "We have no trouble concluding that — taking their allegations as true — the Riches plausibly alleged what amounted to a campaign of emotional torture," the appeals court said.
The court also said there is evidence Fox News tortiously interfered in the Riches’ contract with their private investigator.
The investigator’s "statements in the Fox News articles were an actual breach of his confidentiality agreement," the court’s opinion said.
Fox News is saying that discovery will show the Riches’ lawsuit is not supported by the facts.
D.C. in Brief
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School Sexual Assault Case
Prompts Background Checks
The former employee of a Capitol Hill after-school program is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in D.C. Superior Court Friday on charges he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl.
The case continues to shake up the D.C. Public Schools after revelations the Capitol Hill Montessori School was affiliated with the public school system.
D.C. Public Schools cut ties with the after-school program shortly after police arrested the accused employee, Jestin Hickman, in June.
Now, the D.C. Council is reviewing policies on background checks for school employees.
An internal review by D.C. Public Schools already has alleged the parent company for the Capitol Hill Montessori School failed to complete a proper background check on the accused employee. The review also concluded 30 of school district employees have outdated background checks.
Former Trump Campaign Manager
Disbarred Again in Washington, D.C.
New court action will prevent former presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort Jr. from practicing law in any court in the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disbarred Manafort this month based on his criminal convictions that followed the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He is serving more than seven years in a federal penitentiary.
Manafort was disbarred in May by the D.C Court of Appeals, the District of Columbia’s top court. The court cited him for “moral turpitude.”
He pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to charges that included conspiring to launder money, tax fraud, failing to file foreign bank account reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lying to the Justice Department. He also admitted to jury tampering during the criminal case against him in federal court in Washington.
The Mueller investigation led to criminal and civil charges against several members of the administration of President Donald Trump. Although the president was not implicated in criminal wrongdoing, the investigation did not end his legal problems.
His latest legal trouble came from a New York federal appeals court ruling last week that reinstated a lawsuit accusing him of using his presidency to enrich himself. It alleges he violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by using his influence to help his hotel and restaurant businesses.
Trump suggested recently that the next summit of the Group of 7 world leaders should take place at his luxury golf resort in southern Florida. He described it as a “great place” for the summit.
The federal disbarment case is In re Manafort, D.C. Cir., No. 19-8501, Sept. 12, 2019.
Letters to the Editor
Book on Boston Marathon Bombs
Shows Lone Wolf Terrorism Rises
A new book that reports on the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and trial of the convicted killer shows the attack was only an early example of more coming soon.
Boston's Bloody Marathon uses the bombings by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother as an example of the lone wolf terrorism increasingly encouraged by Islamic extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Lone wolves refer to terrorists who plot their attacks alone, usually with no organization to support them and no official links to violent groups. There is almost no way to know their next target until they strike. U.S. intelligence agencies call them perhaps the biggest terrorist threat to the United States and its allies.
Boston's Bloody Marathon, by Tom Ramstack, is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Charges Dismissed Against Flag-Burner
When Attorneys Invoke First Amendment
A free speech argument by attorneys for a White House flag burner led the Washington, D.C. attorney general to drop criminal charges last week against activist Gregory Johnson.
Johnson was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct after burning the American flag in front of the White House during the Fourth of July celebrations. He said he was protesting President Donald Trump’s policies.
Johnson was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and attorney Mark Goldstone. They wrote a letter to city officials and prosecutors this month asking them to drop charges.
“Mr. Johnson’s expressive conduct … was entirely peaceful and non-threatening [and] was therefore protected by the First Amendment,” the letter to D.C. attorney general Karl Racine said. “There is no justifiable basis for this prosecution.”
They cited the case law from the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. Johnson, which said flag burning was a form of symbolic speech protected under the First Amendment.
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Mayor Says Equal Protection
Requires D.C. Statehood
Mayor Muriel Bowser claimed at a congressional hearing Thursday that the 14th Amendment rights of Washington, D.C. residents are being violated by a lack of statehood.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held the hearing to discuss pending legislation that would make all but two-square miles of the city the nation’s 51st state.
A thin strip of land between the White House, the U.S. Capitol building and the Supreme Court would remain federal property. The rest of the District of Columbia would be called the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.
“This is America and Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law and that’s why you should support statehood,” Bowser said at the hearing.
The statehood bill was introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D.C.’s non-voting Democratic representative to Congress.