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Court clears Michael Moore of libel charge

Michael Moore won a round Tuesday in a court battle with the brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, but the plaintiff’s lawyer said she is considering whether to take the case to the Supreme Court.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Michael Moore won a round Tuesday in a court battle with the brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, but the plaintiff’s lawyer said she is considering whether to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio sided with a Michigan-based federal judge who in 2005 threw out James Nichols’ suit accusing filmmaker Moore of libel and defamation in the Oscar-winning movie “Bowling for Columbine.”

Nichols, a Michigan soybean farmer, contended that statements in the 2002 film could lead viewers to believe he was involved in the bombing. He also claimed the film invaded his privacy and inflicted emotional distress.

But a three-judge panel ruled unanimously that U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman acted properly in rejecting the lawsuit. Borman found that Moore’s statements about Nichols were “factual and substantially true.”

Stefani Godsey, attorney for Nichols, said she would discuss with her client whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Moore’s attorney, Herschel Fink, said it was gratifying that two federal courts had turned away challenges to the accuracy of the film, a withering commentary on guns and violence in America.

“It’s especially important because in this film, as well as ’Fahrenheit 9/11’ and other instances, critics have claimed that his reporting is inaccurate,” Fink said.

Godsey said that Nichols received hate mail and death threats after “Bowling for Columbine” was released.

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Terry Nichols is serving two life sentences without parole for his role in the April 1995 bombing, which killed 168 people. Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 for masterminding the attack.

Agents raided James Nichols’ farm two days after the bombing, after his brother and McVeigh were identified as suspects. James Nichols was arrested and held for 32 days, then released for lack of evidence.

He was indicted on charges of helping his brother and McVeigh detonate small bombs on his farm, but the counts were ultimately dismissed.

In his suit, Nichols said that the charges were unrelated to the Oklahoma City attack but that “Bowling for Columbine” suggested otherwise.