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First Amendment Generally Protects Speech in the U.S. by Non-U.S.-Citizens/Residents

Added 11-23-20 04:21:01pm EST - “An interesting, though unsurprising, decision in a case brought by prominent Russian businessmen over the Fusion GPS Steele Dossier.” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “First Amendment Generally Protects Speech in the U.S. by Non-U.S.-Citizens/Residents”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

From Khan v. Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., decided in 2018 but just posted on Westlaw (Judge Anthony C. Epstein, D.C. Super. Ct.) (affirmed as to other matters in a 2020 D.C. Ct. App. decision):

This case involves what has become known as the "Steele Dossier." The relatively small portion of the Steele Dossier at issue in this case discusses the relationship between plaintiffs German Khan, Mikhal Fridman, and Petr Aven and the Russian government, but it does not discuss specific information linking them to any Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to any specific American candidate….

The Court concludes … that the Anti-SLAPP Act requires dismissal of this case because Defendants have made a prima facie case that the Act applies to their provision of this portion of the Steele Dossier to the media, and Plaintiffs have not submitted evidence that Defendants knew any of this information was false or acted with reckless disregard of its falsity.

On April 16, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants for defamation. Plaintiffs make the following allegations in their complaint. Plaintiffs are international businessmen who are the beneficial owners of Alfa-Bank (a.k.a. Alfa Group), which is based in Russia; Mr. Fridman and Mr. Khan are each citizens of both Russia and Israel, and Mr. Aven is a citizen of Russia. Mr. Steele is a U.K. citizen and a principal of Orbis, a U.K.-based company. Defendants were hired in June 2016 by Fusion GPS ("Fusion"), a Washington, D.C.-based firm that conducts political opposition research, to compile information about then-candidate Donald J. Trump's ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Fusion was originally hired during the primary phase of the 2016 election cycle by Republicans. After the Republican convention, Fusion was hired by the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton….

The Court assumes without deciding that the Anti-SLAPP Act applies only to conduct that is protected by the First Amendment…. [But] Plaintiffs have not cited, and the Court is not aware of, any case holding that the defenses that a defendant in a defamation case may assert under D.C. law or the First Amendment depend on whether the defendant is a U.S. citizen or entity.

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