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Libel in the Society for Creative Anachronism

2 4 12

Free Speech

Eugene Volokh | 9.25.2021 8:47 AM

From Magistrate Judge Michael Aloi's report and recommendation yesterday in Knight v. McLaughlin (N.D. W. Va.):

Plaintiff asserted the following factual allegations in his Complaint. Plaintiff and Defendant are part of a community associated with the "Pennsic War," which itself is affiliated with the Society for Creative Anachronism. In this realm of the Pennsic War, the parties herein identify as "Scadian." Essentially, the parties participate in medieval-style, living history camping events, and in so doing develop community relationships that exist both during these events and in their everyday lives otherwise. The parties previously had been in a romantic relationship.

Defendant was part of a Facebook group comprised of more than 360 female members of the Scadian community. Defendant has a daughter. On June 30, 2020, Defendant posted a message to the Facebook group asserting that her daughter had been sexually assaulted some years prior at age 12. At the time of Defendant's post, her daughter was approximately age 26. Defendant then posted another message to the Facebook group identifying Plaintiff as the alleged assailant and provided a link to Plaintiff's Facebook profile.

Plaintiff asserted unequivocally that Defendant's statements are false. While Plaintiff acknowledged also having a romantic relationship with Defendant's daughter, he stated that this relationship began later, when Defendant's daughter was age 19. Plaintiff also stated unequivocally that he never sexually assaulted Defendant's daughter at any time. Additionally, Plaintiff stated that he had no physical sexual contact with this person prior to her being age 19.

Neither Defendant nor her daughter reported these allegations to law enforcement prior to Defendant's statements made to the Facebook group. In response to Plaintiff's threat to bring a defamation claim against Defendant, Defendant made a report to law enforcement. Plaintiff did not believe that Defendant's daughter aided reporting the allegations to law enforcement. Ultimately, the report to law enforcement has not resulted in any police action against Plaintiff.

Defendant's statements to the Facebook group were intended to malign Plaintiff to the........

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