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The Falwell fiasco and the unusual lack of a libel swimsuit

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Media coverage of the Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. scandal has been overwhelming. That is to be expected. An evangelical figure leaves his post at a religious university after opening a photo with his pants open on a yacht of a Nascar mogul who has received lucrative business with the university. Then came Giancarlo Granda's allegations that he had a long sexual relationship with Falwell's wife Becki and that Rev. Falwell liked to watch the sexual trysts. Falwell has claimed that Granda extorted money. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's sloppy former attorney, is even involved. The interesting element is missing in this tsunami of reporting: Nobody has threatened a defamation campaign. Such a lawsuit could raise some interesting common law questions.

The two men have one to two years, depending on the jurisdiction, but there was no word of resignation or threat of defamation. There is also no criminal complaint despite the public allegation of a crime. Falwell, who received a J.D. from the University of Virginia, is undoubtedly very familiar with such options.

Falwell went public and confirmed the affair between Granda and his wife. His testimony clearly accuses Granda of a crime:

“During a vacation over eight years ago, Becki and I met an ambitious young man who worked in our hotel and saved his money for school. We encouraged him to pursue an education and career, and we were impressed with his initiative to propose a local real estate opportunity. My family members eventually invested in a local property, included him in the deal because he could play an active role in managing it, and got close to him and his family.

Shortly thereafter, Becki had an inappropriately personal relationship with this person that I wasn't a part of – it was still very annoying to learn about it. After learning this, I lost 80 pounds and people who saw me regularly thought I was physically uncomfortable when in reality I was just thinking about how I could most support and reflect and pray for Becki I love whether there were any I could have supported her better and given her the right attention. "

Unfortunately, as we tried to distance ourselves from him over time, he got angrier and more aggressive. Eventually, he threatened to publicly disclose this secret relationship with Becki and to purposely embarrass my wife, family, and Liberty University unless we agreed to pay him substantial funds. "

For his part, Granda has clearly accused Falwell of moral confusion and depravity in an affair that began in 2012. He reports in detail about how he was picked up by Becki and allegedly said on the way to her hotel room: “But one thing. . . My husband likes to watch. “Then he claims Falwell regularly watched them have sex as a kind of fetish.

One would think that by making these statements someone would sue someone for defamation.

Granda v. Falwell

Clearly, if Falwell is lying, Granda has a cause for defamation. What Falwell stated would, in fact, be a case of defamation per se as well as defamation. Under Florida law, it is defamatory per se to ascribe a crime equal to a crime to another. Klayman v Judicial Watch, Inc., 22 F. Supp. 3d 1240 (S. D. Fla. 2014). There is no question that Falwell describes criminal blackmail.

Here is the Florida destination:

836.05Threats; Blackmail.– –Anyone who, orally or by means of a written or printed communication, maliciously threatens to accuse another person of a crime or a criminal offense, or by such communication threatens or threatens with malicious intent to harm the person, property or reputation of another to shame another; or to expose a secret affecting another, or to ascribe a deformity or lack of chastity to another, with the intention of extorting money or financial gain thereby, or with the intention of giving the threatened person or another person to do so forcing to do something, action or failure to do something against his or her will, is found guilty of a second degree crime according to s. 775.082, p. 775.083 or s. 775.084.

This seems to be an assertion that Granda "maliciously threatens to shame another. "

Of course, the truth is a defense against defamation, but if this is wrong, Granda should sue.

Falwell v. Granda

According to common law, the categories per se include statements that assert moral rejection and unchastity according to the categories of defamation per se. This might not be a prototypical case of alleged moral confusion.

This lawsuit would add an interesting aspect to the customary litigation. Obviously, some of the traditional categories are inherently sexists who say it is defamation to question the chastity of a woman (and not a man). However, there is also a debate about the enduring sustainability of moral turpitude as a category in the face of differing opinions about what constitutes a moral lifestyle. It happened in a bizarre case in the 1950s where homosexuality was viewed as a defamatory charge. In Neiman-Marcus v. Lait, 13 FRD 311 (SDNY 1952), co-workers on this high-end story sued the author of a book called "USA. Secret. "The book claimed that some of the models in the story and all of the sales women in the Dallas store were" call girls. "It was also found that most of the salespeople in the men's department were" fags. "The problem was with the size of the With 382 sellers and models, the court found that the group was too large, but found that the 25 sellers had one lawsuit upheld.

Today, most of us would reject the use of homosexuality as defamatory per se, nor would heterosexuality as a claim. Indeed, a court ruled that homosexuality is not a category per se. However, some individuals may continue to claim that their positions may make otherwise customary non-defamatory remarks in the context of their case or life. Falwell is a evangelical figure and this fetish claim is devastating to his position in his community. In a way, this argument shifts the focus from moral confusion to professional reputation. This remains an area that the courts will need to investigate in the years to come.

Becki Falwell could also sue and, since she regularly appears with her husband at religious events, claim the same loss of standing.

Again, the truth is a defense, but if this is wrong, Falwell should sue.

So someone should use if some of this is not true. The question is whether someone will.

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