Court favors student; 'trigger happy bitch' held to be 'opinion'

NEVADA — A state court judge has ruled in favor of three McQueen High School students who were sued for libel by an employee of the Washoe County School District. The suit came about because of articles published in December of 1995 in an underground student newspaper.

In its September ruling, the state district court concluded that the students, Patravutit Leelacharoenpol (also known as Pat Lee), Jackie Shoemaker and Michael Robert Berry, could not be sued because the articles written in the newspaper Kuhnspeeruhsee could be “reasonably characterized as expressions of opinion.”

The plaintiff, Sandra Lessman, said statements in the newspaper referred to her as a “whore,” a “bastard,” and a “trigger-happy bitch.”

Statements can be defamatory, said the court citing another decision, “only if they are presented as fact rather than opinion, and only if the facts asserted are false.” Lee’s attorney said Lessman paid $1,500 for the legal fees in the case and waived her ability to appeal the case. Lessman’s attorney did not return a call for comment.

CORRECTION, Feb. 6, 2008: An earlier version of this article misstated Michael Robert Berry’s name. The SPLC regrets the error.

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