Attorneys for Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann, who was at the center of a social media firestorm last month, say they will begin filing defamation lawsuits against celebrities, social media figures, and news organizations, now that Sandmann has been “cleared of wrongdoing” in a confrontation between students and an elderly Native American protester by the Catholic Diocese of Covington.
The Diocese released their independent investigation into the confrontation yesterday, according to the Detroit Free Press, several weeks after a video went viral showing Sandmann coming face to face with Nathan Phillips as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial waiting for a bus.
Social media users initially claimed that Sandmann, who was wearing a newly-purchased “Make America Great Again” hat, was “intimidating” Phillips, and that Covington Catholic students had mocked the protesters with racist slogans and gestures. Phillips also claimed that the students surrounded him, harassed him, and blocked his exit.
More complete video of the incident eventually emerged, showing that Phillips, not the students, instigated the confrontation, that he was never blocked from leaving, and that the students had themselves been the subject of racially-charged harassment from a different group of protesters shortly before Phillips and others appeared on the scene.
The Diocese hired Cincinnati, Ohio law firm Dressman Benzinger Lavell to conduct the investigation, which found no wrongdoing on the part of Sandmann or the other students. “Investigators interviewed 43 students and 13 chaperones, while examining 50 hours of internet activity including videos and news media reports. Nick supplied his publicized written statement, which investigators determined was accurate,” according to The Washington Times.
“Our inquiry, conducted by a third party firm that has no connection with Covington Catholic High School or the Diocese of Covington, has demonstrated that our students did not instigate the incident that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial,” Bishop Roger Joseph Foys of the Covington Diocese said in a statement posted to the Diocese website. “Our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening. Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory.”
Attorney L. Lin Wood, who is representing Sandmann, announced that the student’s legal team would begin filing defamation lawsuits against roughly fifty potential defendants this week. Wood’s firm previously sent “cease and desist” letters to dozens of celebrities, social media personalities, and news organizations who “reported” on the Covington Catholic incident. Those same letters demanded each potential defendant preserve any tweets or comments they had made on the confrontation, particularly those concerning Sandman.
“Nick Sandmann is 16 years old & has 2½+ years to identify accusers & sue them,” Wood said on Twitter, per The Washington Times. “No member of mainstream & social media mob who attacked him should take comfort from not being sued in initial round of lawsuits which will commence next week. Time is Nick’s friend, not his enemy.”
Likely recipients include, “CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Jim Carrey, Alyssa Milano, Bill Maher, and even Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren,” according to entertainment news site, Bounding into Comics.