A Mixed Martial Arts Defamation Fight

MMA defamation lawsuit pits Ibarra against Rampage Jackson.
MMA defamation lawsuit pits John Ibarra against Rampage Jackson.

Looks like an Ultimate Fighting battle is raging outside the Octagon. Trainer John Ibarra filed a defamation lawsuit against Former Light Heavyweight Champion Quintan “Rampage” Jackson for calling him an “crook” in an online video. A veteran defamation accuser, this is the second defamation lawsuit Ibarra has filed against a fighter.

The Rampage Video That Launched A Slander Lawsuit

In an October 2012 video that appeared online entitled, “A Day in NYC with Rampage Jackson,” when asked about John Ibarra – Jackson’s trainer from 2004 – 2009 — Rampage chided, “This guy is a (expletive) crook and now he’s trying to sue me.”

Outraged by the accusations, Ibarra filed a slander lawsuit against his former client. In the lawsuit, Ibarra accuses Jackson of speaking false statements of fact and even alleges that Jackson blamed him (Ibarra) for an arrest and involuntary stay at a psych ward that Jackson once had to endure.  Defamation, invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress are the charged being charged.

This is Not Ibarra’s First Defamation Lawsuit Against An Ex-Client

This lawsuit against Rampage is not the first defamation action brought by Ibarra. The fighting trainer is also currently embroiled in a libelous legal battle with Jacob Christopher “Tito” Ortiz. That lawsuit is still pending, but according to reports, “at least one defendant…has retracted similar defamatory statements” in relation to that case.

Coincidentally, Jackson and Ortiz are scheduled to face each other in a fight in November. Wonder if Ibarra will be watching.

Petraeus Scandal Births A Defamation Lawsuit

defamation trial graphicJill Kelly — a Tampa socialite caught up in the sex scandal involving CIA director David Petraeus — filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. She is claiming defamation and violation of privacy.

Mrs. Kelly claims she was the target of harassing emails from the ex-Central Intelligence Agency Directors’ mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell.  The suit, filed by Kelly and her husband, states that FBI director Robert S. Mueller and members of his department “willfully and maliciously” implicated them in the Petraeus and Broadwell imbroglio.  They also claim Mueller and members of the department engaged in “sexual innuendo, old-fashioned ‘blame the victim’ discrimination” and other privacy violations.

The suit asks for unspecified damages and an apology.  There has been no comment on the suit from any bureau spokesperson.

It was later reported that Kelley and General John Allen, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, had exchanged more than 30,000 inappropriate emails. In an interview published in January, Mrs. Kelley denied the claim that she exchanged upwards of 30,000 emails with Allen and insists she has never met Paula Broadwell.

Both Petraeus and Allen resigned their position with the government and the cyber stalking investigation on Broadwell has been dropped.

Blogger v. Mogul: A Public Figure Online Defamation Lawsuit Case Study

public figures and blogger defamation lawsuits
Can public figures sue bloggers for opinion pieces?

A partial owner of the Miami Heat, Raanan Katz, successfully obtained an injunction against blogger Irina Chevaldina. The sanction comes after Katz filed an online defamation lawsuit against Chevaldina and Google over a picture of him, which Chevaldina posted on the Internet. The case is noteworthy because the injunction awarded is questionable.

The Picture That Launched An Online Defamation Lawsuit

The Katz online libel fracas has to do with a photo Chevaldina posted on her blog. Though I have yet to see the actual graphic, judging from reports, it sounds like the pic of Katz in question was  publicly available and had been manipulated by Chevaldina in an unflattering manner. The consummate business man, instead of going for a potentially difficult defamation ruling, Katz decided to purchase the rights to the photo. He then proceed to sue both the blogger and Google for failing to take down the image, which, he argued, violated his intellectual property rights.

Let The Defamation Litigation Begin!

At first, Katz included both Google and Chevaldina on the lawsuit; smartly (he would have never won against Google), Katz dropped the search giant from the lawsuit, but pushed forward with his claim against Chevalinda. As part of his litigation strategy, Katz’s attorneys moved to get an injunction against Katz that would prevent her from “trespassing” on any of his properties and publishing any content that may “otherwise cause harm” to Katz.

The injunctions put Chevalinda in a particularly prickly situation. Since Katz owns many of the shopping malls in her neighborhood, she says is essentially banned from living in her community. Undaunted by the injunction, Chevalinda once again took to the Internet and blogged about the potential illegality of the injunction. Katz saw the posts and his lawyers filed contempt charges against Chevalinda.

The Question Of Fame

The most noteworthy aspect of this defamation imbroglio is Katz’s lawyers’ attempt to frame their client as a private citizen as opposed to a public figure. By claiming the mogul is a private citizen means he would not have to prove actual malice in order to win the defamation case. Under U.S. defamation law, actual malice means the defendant purposefully published known lies in order to discredit their target. If, however, the defendant can prove they properly researched their topic and only published what they reasonably believed to be true or experienced, the chances of a plaintiff emerging victorious diminish greatly.

Will Katz be able to convince a judge that he’s not a public figure? Probably not. After all, the man has a street and official day named after him in the community of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. Not to mention he’s a known owner of an NBA team.

What to learn more about the difference between celebrity defamation lawsuits and private citizen defamation lawsuits? Click Here.

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