The Huffington Post headline was, “Support Jack Shepard, The Arsonist, For Congress.” Shepard takes the position that it was defamatory for the “HuffPo,” as the Huffington Post is sometimes called, to label him an arsonist when, in fact, he was merely charged with arson rather than convicted (he fled to Italy before trial). (The article went on to clarify that Shepard was “accused of arson in 1982.”)
Sr. U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson (D. Minn.) disposed of Shepard libel suit on HuffPo’s motion to dismiss.
First, Judge Magnuson’s order points out that the Minnesota statute of limitation for defamation is two years from the date of publication, not from the date the statement was discovered by the claimant. Shepard missed the deadline for filing his lawsuit by one month.
Shepard, in response, appears to have claimed that he has been on active duty in the U.S. military and therefore entitled to tolling of the statute of limitation under federal law. But apparently his letter from the White House or his commanding officer did not reach the Court for some reason (see Order, footnote 2).
And putting aside the fact that Shepard’s claims against HuffPo were time-barred, Judge Magnuson went on to say that his claims failed because HuffPo’s piece was either “true or permissible hyperbole.”
Seth Leventhal is a Minnesota trial lawyer with an appreciation of the fact that reputations deserve aggressive legal protection but sometimes attempts to protect or rehabilitate one’s reputation can (and in some cases should) have the exact opposite effect.