Hofstra newspaper sued for 'truth' in sex assault story
NEW YORK — Hofstra University’s student newspaper asked a New York state court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against it in June, claiming that writers accurately provided information on a sexual assault incident on campus.
The newspaper said it reported, without error, on the arrest of law student Michael Liebgold for third degree sexual assault in March 1995.
“True facts, no matter how unflattering, cannot give rise to a libel claim,” states the newspaper in its motion to dismiss the case. “The express statements in the articles and editorial are undeniably true.”
Liebgold claims the paper depicted him as a rapist through its stories and editorial. The paper claims the accusations were the result of a “distorted and unreasonable” reading of the articles and editorial in question.
“The assertion of a false fact is an essential element of Liebgold’s defamation claim,” the newspaper stated. “The facts reported by The Chronicle are concededly true.” The paper claims the editorial is a “classic” example of “constitutionally protected opinion.”
The situation began in March 1995, when, according to court documents, Liebgold invited an undergraduate student to his campus dorm room. She left “abruptly” after arriving and the following morning Liebgold was arrested and charged with third degree sexual assault, according to court documents.
At the time of Liebgold’s arrest, he denied any wrongdoing had taken place and said all contact with the woman had been “consensual.” Liebgold was permitted by Hofstra’s dean of students and law school dean to continue living in his campus home and attend classes.
Approximately two weeks after Liebgold’s arrest, The Chronicle published an article about the alleged assault, along with an editorial about the incident, according to court documents. Three other news stories followed.
The editorial criticized Hofstra for inaccurately publicizing alleged criminal incidents on campus. It also stated that the school had been “inexcusably tardy in providing information to the public.”
A decision on The Chronicle’s motion to dismiss the case is expected in September, said the newspaper’s attorney, Craig Bloom.
Fall 1996, Hofstra University, New York, reports