Dominion can discuss general threats in Fox defamation trial

Apr 11, 2023, 12:42 PM

FILE - A worker passes a Dominion Voting ballot scanner while setting up a polling location at an e...

FILE - A worker passes a Dominion Voting ballot scanner while setting up a polling location at an elementary school in Gwinnett County, Ga., outside of Atlanta, on Jan. 4, 2021. The judge presiding over a voting machine company's closely watched defamation lawsuit against Fox News for airing bogus allegations of fraud in the 2020 election indicated Tuesday that he would not allow jurors to hear testimony about specific threats directed at the company. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

(AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The judge presiding over a voting machine company’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News for airing bogus allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election indicated Tuesday he would allow jurors to hear some testimony about threats directed at the company, but only to a point.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis granted a motion by Fox to prohibit any reference to specific threats or harassment directed at Dominion Voting Systems. But he said he would allow Dominion to talk generally about threats it had received to show how it has been damaged by the Fox broadcasts.

Megan Meier, an attorney for Dominion, argued unsuccessfully that jurors should be allowed to hear details about threats the company has received.

“It has decimated Dominion’s ability to attract and retain employees, because the company is under siege,” she said.

Meier noted that local election officials throughout the U.S. who are responsible for deciding whether to contract with Dominion also have been harassed and threatened, part of election workers since the 2020 election.

Davis said he did not want the jury to be prejudiced against Fox because of threats made by people with no connection to the network.

In another ruling, the judge denied a motion by Dominion to broadly prohibit Fox from using “unfettered and vague references” to the First Amendment and free speech in defending itself against the defamation claims. Dominion, which is seeking $1.6 billion in damages, argued that any reference to the constitutional right to free speech needs to be set in the context of the legal standard for defamation.

The judge acknowledged that not all speech is protected under the First Amendment and said the issue would have to be addressed on a witness-by-witness basis.

The motions were among several presented by both sides in an effort to keep certain evidence, topics and questions out of the trial, which is scheduled to begin Thursday with jury selection. Opening statements are scheduled for Monday.

In another ruling, the judge denied a motion by Fox seeking to bar any reference at trial to matters involving the Murdoch family, which owns Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News. But Davis said he doesn’t see how testimony from James Murdoch, whom Dominion has pointed to as a potential witness, is relevant to the case because he was not at the company in the months after the election.

James Murdoch is the younger son of media mogul and Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, and the brother of Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, both of whom are expected to testify. James Murdoch is a former CEO of 21st Century Fox and former director of News Corp., another large media company with ties to the Murdoch family.

The judge already decided last week there would be no testimony about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Even before the trial begins, records released as part of the lawsuit have turned an uncomfortable spotlight on the network.

Information obtained by Dominion has shown that some network hosts harbored off-camera doubts about election fraud claims but nevertheless allowed program guests to repeatedly make them in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The case also has drawn scrutiny of various emails and text messages shared among Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott about election coverage and the allegations by former President Donald Trump that he was cheated.

They revealed a chorus of voices, from worried about retaining pro-Trump viewers.

roundly rejected by dozens of courts, including by judges he had appointed.

Davis himself wrote last month that it was “CRYSTAL clear” the stolen-election claims weren’t true. That came in a summary judgment ruling in which the judge said a jury would have to decide whether Fox News acted with actual malice in publishing the statements. Jurors also must decide whether Fox Corp. directly participated in airing the statements, and whether Dominion is entitled to any damages.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the judge said his use of all capital letters in last month’s ruling was simply to ensure that lawyers for both sides understood there would be no genuine issue of fact at trial that the allegations were false.

“I wasn’t trying to send some message to America or anything,” he said.

National News

Associated Press

Man pleads guilty to picking up Yellowstone bison calf that was rejected by herd, euthanized

MAMMOTH, Wyo. (AP) — A man from Hawaii pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge alleging he picked up a bison calf in Yellowstone National Park, causing the animal’s herd to reject it and leading park officials to kill it rather than allow it to be a hazard to visitors. A federal magistrate judge ordered the […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Trial opens for 3 charged with aiding Chinese campaign to pressure expats into returning home

NEW YORK (AP) — An American sleuth and two Chinese men faced jurors Wednesday in the first trial to come out of U.S. claims that China’s government has tried to harass, intimidate and arm-twist dissidents and others abroad into returning home. Michael McMahon, Zheng Congying and Zhu Yong are charged with being part of a […]

16 hours ago

Dev Shah, 14, from Largo, Fla., competes during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 3...

Associated Press

Scripps National Spelling Bee finalists flex their knowledge quietly

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Confidence on the Scripps National Spelling Bee stage manifests itself in subtle ways, like spellers asking questions even though they know the answers. Dev Shah, one of 11 spellers who made it through Wednesday’s semifinals and will return Thursday to compete for the winner’s trophy and more than $50,000 in […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Born in a typhoon: Many, including newborns, remain without electricity as Guam recovers from storm

HONOLULU (AP) — About a week after Typhoon Mawar tore through Guam as the strongest typhoon to hit the U.S. Pacific territory in over two decades, most of the island remained without electricity and the governor appealed for patience during a recovery process expected to take at least a month. Even though Mawar caused no […]

16 hours ago

FILE - JPMorgan Chase & Company Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon testifies at a Senate Banking Committe...

Associated Press

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon says he never heard of Jeffrey Epstein until after his 2019 arrest

NEW YORK (AP) — JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has testified that he never heard of Jeffrey Epstein and his crimes against teenage girls and young women until the financier was arrested in 2019, according to a transcript of the videotaped deposition released Wednesday. Dimon said he first heard about it “when the story blew wide […]

16 hours ago

FILE - Solomon Peña, center, a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken int...

Associated Press

Federal grand jury charges ex-GOP candidate with shootings on lawmakers’ homes

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A failed political candidate has been indicted on federal charges including interference with the electoral process in connection with a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of state and local lawmakers in Albuquerque, according to a grand jury indictment that was unsealed Wednesday. The indictment filed in U.S. District […]

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Dominion can discuss general threats in Fox defamation trial