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skakel

skakel

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Published by Eriq Gardner
@eriqgardner
@eriqgardner

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Published by: Eriq Gardner on Mar 10, 2014
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/21/2014

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT MICHAEL SKAKEL, : Plaintiff, : CIVIL ACTION NO. : 3:12-CV-01669 (VLB) v. : : NANCY GRACE, BETH KARAS, : TUNER BROADCAST SYSTEM, INC., and : TIME WARNER, INC., : Defendants. : March 7, 2014 MEMORANDUM OF DECISION DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT [Dkt. #10] I. Introduction The Plaintiff, Michael Skakel (“Skakel”), brings this action against Defendants Nancy Grace, Beth Karas, Turner Broadcast System, Inc., and Time Warner, Inc. alleging libel, slander, and false light invasion of privacy in nine counts. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons that follow, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is DENIED. II. Factual Background The following facts and allegations are taken from Plaintiff’s complaint. Michael Skakel was convicted in June 2002 of the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. [Dkt. 1, Compl. ¶12]. Nearly ten years after his conviction, Skakel took part in a Sentence Review Hearing, a hearing procedure at which he argued that his sentence was wrongful and/or subject to reduction. [
Id
.]. Shortly after
Case 3:12-cv-01669-VLB Document 21 Filed 03/07/14 Page 1 of 27
 
2 Skakel’s Hearing, between January 23 and January 25, 2012, Nancy Grace interviewed guest Beth Karas on “The Nancy Grace Show.” [
Id
. at ¶¶11, 12]. The Nancy Grace Show” airs on the cable news station HLN, which is owned and/or operated by Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc. (TBS), which in turn is a wholly owned subsidiary and/or division of Time Warner Inc., one or both of which also own cable station TruTV. [
Id
. at ¶¶2, 5, 6]. Karas is a legal expert for cable and network news programming and is also a former Assistant District  Attorney for New York City. [
Id
. at ¶23]. She acts as a correspondent for Court TV and the program “In Session,” for which she provides coverage of court trials. [
Id
. at ¶24]. Grace prefaced the interview with Karas by noting that she and Karas had covered the Skakel trial and that Karas had been present in court during the trial, which Plaintiff contends “set[ ] the stage for viewers and listeners, and reinforce[ed] both Defendants’ knowledge and experience with the case, including, but not limited to, Defendant Karas’ actual first hand familiarity with the ‘in court’ testimony and evidence at Michael Skakel’s trial.[
Id
. at ¶13]. During the interview, Grace asked for the “crux” of the facts of the case, which Karas relayed. Grace then asked the following: “isn’t it true that the Kennedy cousin [Skakel] apparently was up in a tree masturbating trying to look into [Moxley’s] bedroom window?” [
Id
. at ¶14]. Karas responded: “well his DNA was found yes . . . up in the tree.[
Id
. at ¶15]. Grace then stated, “Beth I love the way you put it so delicately, ‘his DNA,’ you know, it was sperm, there I said it, and so he places himself there up in a tree masturbating looking down at her window, and whoa
Case 3:12-cv-01669-VLB Document 21 Filed 03/07/14 Page 2 of 27
 
3 she [Moxley] turns up dead within a couple of hours.” [
Id
. at ¶16]. As Grace stated “it was sperm,” and before she had finished her prior comment, Karas uttered the word “correct” in the affirmative. [
Id
. at ¶17]. This exchange was widely broadcast nationally on various broadcast and social media outlets. It appeared on the TBS Networks, including national networks HLN and TruTV. [
Id
. at ¶¶6, 20]. Defendants made Grace’s interview with Karas available on YouTube on or about January 25, 2012, and the written transcript of the interview was published on the internet at http://edition.cnn.com. [
Id
. at ¶¶20, 21]. The interview was also re-aired on the HLNtv.com website as part of an April 23, 2012 written update entitled “Kennedy Cousin [Skakel] Asks Judge for Shorter Jail Time,” and automatically plays as a video upon visiting the page of the update. [
Id
. at ¶22]. The Plaintiff alleges that, having covered the trial, both Grace and Karas were thoroughly familiar with the fact that there was no DNA evidence linking Michael Skakel to the murder of Martha Moxley, and that his DNA was not found anywhere on her body, clothing, in a tree, or elsewhere.[
Id
. at ¶25]. Further, both Grace and Karas, through their own investigative reporting or via other reports, were aware that Michael Skakel agreed to provide DNA samples to the State of Connecticut shortly before his trial, at the behest of prosecutors, however, the prosecutors withdrew their request for the same.[
Id
. at ¶26]. The complaint states that Grace and Karas have “remained aware of post conviction developments in Michael Skakel’s case, and have reported upon or been involved in the reporting of many of said developments,” and are also familiar with
Case 3:12-cv-01669-VLB Document 21 Filed 03/07/14 Page 3 of 27

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