Libel suit against Daily Nebraskan moves forward

NEBRASKA -- A $700,000 libel suit against the University of Nebraska at Lincoln's student newspaper will continue after a state judge declined to award summary judgment in the newspaper's favor.

Former Nebraska Regent Robert Prokop filed a lawsuit against the Daily Nebraskan in October 2007, claiming the paper libeled him in an editorial that ran in October 2006. The editorial, titled "Regents must be held to high standards," accused Prokop of plagiarizing a guest column about homosexuality he submitted to the paper in the 1970s.

The Daily Nebraskan requested a summary judgment in the case, but was denied.

"At the very least, the court finds that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding the truth or falsity of the statements made in the article published by defendant as well as whether 'actual malice' exists," Judge Jodi Nelson wrote in her Aug. 18 ruling.

Dan Shattil, general manager of the Daily Nebraskan, said he is not sure why the judge ruled the way she did. The judge refused to consider several newspaper articles submitted as evidence by the Nebraskan because they were photocopies. Shattil said the newspaper's attorney is in the process of obtaining affidavits certifying they are actual copies of the original articles.

"There's no evidence that Prokop has come up with proving... that what we had printed was false, much less proving that we have shown actual malice in the accusations," Shattil said.

The editorial discussed a Texas Tech University regent who stepped down after plagiarizing portions of a guest column in the student newspaper. The Nebraskan column compared Prokop to the Texas Tech regent and went on to call for a broader ethics policy for the Nebraska Board of Regents.

Prokop later lost his election bid, and in 2007 he filed a complaint against the newspaper. In the complaint, Prokop claims the newspaper "falsely, maliciously and illegally" printed the editorial and that it contained "false, scandalous, illegal, defamatory and malicious statements."

When reached Wednesday, Prokop had no comment.

Shattil is confident with the newspaper's chances in trial.

"If it goes to trial, there's no way that the Daily Nebraskan can lose because there's no evidence that has come to light showing what we printed was false," Shattil said.

The judge did award summary judgment to Regent Jim McClurg, who Prokop separately sued for statements McClurg made in a 2006 Omaha World Herald story when the two were campaigning for the same Regents seat, according to the Lincoln Star Journal.

Daily Nebraskan, Nebraska, news, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

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