More than 50 media organizations, celebrities and politicians were sent letters from lawyers representing the Covington Catholic High School student seen in a controversial viral video — the first step in a possible libel and defamation lawsuit — and the teen’s legal team also released a 15-minute video that they say shows “the truth” about his interactions at last month’s March For Life.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., actors Alyssa Milano and Jim Carey, media organizations CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post and the Diocese of Covington were among the dozens recently sent preservation letters, the text of which advised the parties not to destroy any documents in connection with the case. The Cincinnati Inquirer first reported on Friday the initial list of organizations, and attorney Todd McMurtry confirmed to Fox News on Monday that more organizations or individuals could also receive letters.
“It’s an enormous pool of possible defendants,” he said, adding only one party had responded to the letter, though he did not say which.
McMurtry, of the Hemmer DeFrank Wessels law firm in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, is part of the legal team representing Nick Sandmann, the Kentucky teenager vilified online after a viral video widely misrepresented him allegedly harassing a Native American man following a pro-life demonstration on Jan. 18 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The incident sparked massive and widespread criticisms of Sandmann, who was seen in a brief snippet of the encounter smiling while standing in front of activist Nathan Phillips, and Sandmann’s classmates.
Subsequent videos revealed the students – some, including Sandmann, wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats – were actually accosted and yelled at before Phillips and other Native American activists approached them. Another group – the so-called Black Hebrew Israelites – were heard and seen shouting at the students.
Both school officials and the Native Americans involved have said they’ve received death threats since the encounter.
McMurtry told the Inquirer the aftermath of the incident “permanently stained [Nick’s reputation]” and that the organizations and individuals addressed in the letters may have defamed or libeled Nick with false reporting.
He told Fox News that not everyone who received the letter could be called to defend themselves in a court, but that they have basis to believe that they could be sued. He added the documents that should be preserved for any future litigation include any drafts of stories, emails between colleagues discussing the incident, and, for celebrities and individuals, any tweets or statements sent to the public.
A spokeswoman for the Covington Diocese declined to comment. Emails to other organizations and individuals were not immediately returned.
In addition to the letters, Sandmann’s legal team – which includes L. Lin Wood, a nationally-recognized attorney in the fields of libel, defamation and the First Amendment – also released a 15-minute video they say show “the truth” of what happened at the March for Life event.
“2 weeks ago, the mainstream media, politicians, church officials, commentators & celebrities rushed to judgment to wrongfully condemn, threaten, disparage & vilify Nick Sandmann based solely on a few seconds of an out-of-context video clip. It only takes 15 minutes to learn the truth,” the video description, posted on YouTube, stated.
On Twitter, Wood added: “Some say a 15-minute video is too long to go viral. Will we allow incomplete 30-second video clips to be basis for agenda-driven false accusations & threats against a 16-year old student? Please share the full truth about what was done to Nick Sandmann.”
Wood did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment Monday.
“For the mob to just go tear apart a 16-year-old boy is inexcusable,” McMurtry told the Inquirer. “He’ll never be able to get away from this.”