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Judge dismisses defamation lawsuit brought by family of fallen Marine against Alec Baldwin

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit against Alec Baldwin in which the family of a Marine killed in Afghanistan claimed defamation and negligence, according to court documents.

The sisters and widow of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum sued the actor in January after he made comments on Instagram about one family member’s presence outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The McCollums failed to prove the court has personal jurisdiction over Baldwin’s actions, according to the order from Nancy D. Freudenthal, a federal judge in the District of Wyoming.

The lawsuit had claimed: “Venue is proper in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming … because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to these claims occurred in Jackson, Teton County, Wyoming.”

Freudenthal, in the dismissal order, writes that Baldwin is from New York and has never done business in Wyoming.

“The allegedly tortious conduct by Mr. Baldwin in New York, by way of posting a photo and content on his own Instagram feed, was not deliberately directed at an audience in Wyoming, thus any allegation that it was intended to harm plaintiffs primarily or particularly in Wyoming is insufficient for personal jurisdiction,” the judge writes.

Attorney Dennis Postiglione said the family plans to refile the lawsuit “in a jurisdiction where Baldwin can be held accountable for his horrible conduct.”

Luke Nikas, attorney for Baldwin, welcomed the decision.

“This is a significant step toward the complete dismissal of the lawsuit, which seeks to punish Mr. Baldwin for expressing his political opinion,” he said.

Rylee McCollum was one of 13 U.S. service members killed August 26, 2021, during a suicide bomber attack at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

After his death, a GoFundMe account was started for his widow, Jiennah McCollum, “and her soon-to-be-born daughter,” the suit says. Baldwin heard about the GoFundMe account and sent US$5,000 to the Marine’s sister, Roice McCollum, for Jiennah and her child as what he called “a tribute to a fallen soldier,” according to the suit.

On January 3, Roice “posted a photo of a crowd of demonstrators at the Washington Monument on her Instagram page in anticipation of the January 6, 2022, one-year anniversary of her attendance at the Washington, D.C. demonstration,” the suit said.

On January 6, 2021, hundreds of supporters of then-president Donald Trump gathered outside the U.S. Capitol to protest Congress certifying the results of the 2020 election. Many rioters pushed aside barricades and law enforcement officers to breach the building, storming some of the most hallowed chambers of American democracy and setting off shock waves of violence and division across the country. The consequences of that day continue to reverberate.

When Baldwin saw Roice’s post ahead of the 1-year anniversary, he began to message her on Instagram, according to the lawsuit.

“When I sent the $ for your late brother, out of real respect for his service to this country, I didn’t know you were a January 6th rioter,” Baldwin said, according to the suit.

Roice “was never detained, arrested, charged with or convicted of any crime associated with her attendance at the January 6, 2021, event in Washington, D.C.,” the lawsuit said.

She responded to Baldwin, according to the suit, that, “Protesting is perfectly legal in the country and I’ve already had my sit down with the FBI. Thanks, have a nice day!”

Baldwin responded, the lawsuit says, with, “I don’t think so. Your activities resulted in the unlawful destruction of government property, the death of a law enforcement officer, an assault on the certification of the presidential election. I reposted your photo. Good luck.”

Approximately 20 minutes after Baldwin posted Roice’s “Instagram feed,” she “began to get hostile, aggressive, hateful messages from Baldwin’s followers,” the suit alleges.

Baldwin’s Instagram post that he later deleted said, “Lots of Trumpsters chiming in here with the current cry that the attack on the Capitol was a protest, (a more peaceful form of which got a lot of other protestors imprisoned) and an exercise in democracy. That’s bullsh*t.”

His post continued and said, “I did some research. I found, on IG, that this woman [Roice McCollum] is the brother (sic) of one of the men who was killed,” in Kabul Afghanistan.

“I offered to send her sister-in-law [Jiennah McCollum] some $ as a tribute to her late brother, his widow and their child. Which I did. As a tribute to a fallen soldier. Then I find this. Truth is stranger than fiction,” his post added.

The suit says Baldwin, “unequivocally understood that by forwarding Roice’s Instagram feed to 2.4 million like-minded followers and posting his commentary would result in the onslaught of threats and hatred that it did.”

Hours after Baldwin’s post, Lance’s other sister, Cheyenne, and his widow, Jiennah, began receiving “hateful messages and even death threats,” according to the suit.

“Neither Cheyenne nor Jiennah” were in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, the suit added.



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