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A federal judge has refused to dismiss a Mississippi man’s defamation lawsuit against the news website HuffPost over a 2018 story on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s days at Georgetown Prep school.
Gulfport professor and advocate Derrick Evans’ lawsuit was filed in August 2019 in U.S. District Court in Gulfport against HuffPost.com and its former journalist, Ashley Feinberg.
The lawsuit said HuffPost and Feinberg repeatedly defamed Evans and friend Douglas Kennedy to a nationwide audience in September 2018 by falsely asserting they helped arrange the purchase and delivery of cocaine at Georgetown Prep that resulted in the April 1984 death of David Kennedy, Douglas’ brother and the son of the late U.S. attorney general and senator, Robert F. Kennedy.
HuffPost attorney Michael Bentley argued in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that “This action does not belong and never should have been brought in Mississippi.”
Bentley said the article wasn’t aimed at readers in Mississippi, contained no reference to the state, and defendants did not travel to or contact sources in Mississippi. Also, he said HuffPost wasn’t even aware of Evans’ residence at the time of publication.
Evans’ attorney, Charles Cowan, argues HuffPost operates a website that is a “global online news and media platform,” that it has subscribers in Mississippi and that it derives revenue from Mississippi.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden said in a Sept. 11 opinion the case should continue in Mississippi for now.
“The complaint alleges that Evans suffered injury in Mississippi from defendants’ defamatory statements,” Ozerden said. “Although defendants have submitted evidence in support of their motion to dismiss, they have not offered any evidence which refutes this claim.”
The case had been put on hold until jurisdiction is resolved.
HuffPost said its headquarters is in New York City and Feinberg is a New York resident. HuffPost said it isn’t registered to do business in Mississippi, and has no offices, assets, or employees in Mississippi and nor is HuffPost or Feinberg subject to jurisdiction in Mississippi.
Evans’ lawsuit said the article statements “were not only false and defamatory, but outrageously so, and were published by defendants with knowledge of their actual falsity or in reckless disregard of the truth for the apparent purpose of creating a salacious story designed to drive internet traffic to HuffPost’s website.”
The story was published in the fall of 2018 when the United States Senate was holding confirmation hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Kavanaugh, Evans and Douglas Kennedy are alumnus of Georgetown Prep.
During the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination, Feinberg wrote the article that Evans’ lawsuit said was sensational, depicting a wild “alcohol-and-drug-fueled” culture at Georgetown Prep in the early 1980s.
The headline of the story was “Kavanaugh’s Prep School Party Scene Was a ‘Free-For-All’.”
The lawsuit said in HuffPost’s zeal to create a sensational article about Kavanaugh’s years at Georgetown Prep and thereby drive traffic to its website, it fabricated the claim that Kennedy and Evans “helped score” the illegal narcotics that killed Douglas Kennedy’s older brother, David, in April 1984.
The lawsuit said HuffPost ran a correction, but the correction also contained false information. HuffPost eventually changed the story removing any reference to Evans and the Kennedy brothers.
HuffPost said in its motion that In subsequent versions of the article, the reference to Evans’s involvement in the drug purchase was modified and then deleted altogether.
Evans obtained a full academic scholarship to Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland, in 1982.
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston College, Evans became a history professor and lecturer on American social history and the civil rights movement.
No trial date has been set in Evans’ lawsuit.
Contact Jimmie E. Gates at 601-961-7212 or email@example.com. Follow @jgatesnews on Twitter.
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