Judge Dismisses $250 Million Lawsuit From MAGA Teen

Nicholas Sandmann had sued the Washington Post for defamation.

KC NOLAND/YouTube

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a $250 million defamation lawsuit filed by Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student whose video confrontation with a Native American man at the January Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, DC sparked a firestorm of controversy.

Sandmann had accused the Washington Post of negligently committing libel against him. 

Initial videos of the encounter appeared to show Sandmann, who was in DC wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat for a separate March for Life rally, facing down Native American elder Nathan Phillips, which is what the Washington Post had reported at the time. Additional videos showing another group taunting both the Covington students and Phillips’ group only added to the confusion on social media. 

Sandmann later said that he was only calmly hoping to defuse the tense situation.

“The Court accepts Sandmann’s statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not to impede or block anyone,” Judge William Bertelsman wrote in his order. “However, Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being ‘blocked’ and not allowed to ‘retreat.’ He passed these conclusions on to the Post. They may have been erroneous, but as discussed above, they are opinion protected by the First Amendment. And The Post is not liable for publishing these opinions.”

Bertelsman noted that although the Post’s initial characterization may have been “erroneous,” their publishings were protected under the First Amendment. 

“Therefore, having reviewed this matter carefully, and being fully advised, it is ordered that the Post’s motion to dismiss be, and is hereby, granted.”

Read the opinion here:

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.