Wynn Resorts Founder Steve Wynn Loses Lawsuit against the Associated Press
The Nevada Supreme Court delivered a significant blow to casino tycoon Steve Wynn last Thursday. It dismissed the Wynn Resorts founder and former CEO's long-running defamation lawsuit against The Associated Press (AP) over a contentious story involving allegations of sexual misconduct.
Slapping Down the Lawsuit
The Nevada Supreme Court invoked state anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) legislation to reject Wynn's claims of defamation stemming from a February 2018 AP article. This article referenced police documents detailing accusations made by two women against Wynn.Related: Ousted Wynn Resorts Founder Steve Wynn Fined Again in Vegas
In its unanimous decision, the three-justice panel upheld Nevada's anti-SLAPP statutes, emphasizing their role in curbing lawsuits aimed at stifling public discourse or criticism. The court underscored the public interest served by news organizations in disseminating information, particularly regarding matters of clear public concern.
Wynn contended that the AP article, based on police records, misrepresented crucial aspects of one woman's accusation against him, particularly concerning an alleged rape incident in the 1970s in Chicago and the subsequent birth of a child. However, the court found no merit in Wynn's arguments, signaling a resounding victory for press freedoms and the dissemination of news in the public interest.
AP's Vice President of Corporate Communications, Lauren Easton, welcomed the court's decision, affirming the organization's commitment to responsible and accurate reporting. Meanwhile, Wynn's attorney, Todd Bice, expressed surprise at the court's ruling, suggesting that it could set a precedent undermining legal protections for news reports deemed false.
Ending the Lengthy Legal Battle
The legal battle between Wynn and AP dates back to April 2018, when the casino magnate filed a lawsuit against the news agency, a reporter, and Halina Kuta, one of the accusers. Wynn's resignation as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts two months prior to filing the lawsuit heightened public scrutiny of the allegations against him, which initially surfaced in a January 2018 Wall Street Journal report.
The case underwent multiple rounds of legal scrutiny, culminating in two hearings before the state Supreme Court. Despite earlier dismissals and appeals, the court's final ruling firmly sided with AP, underscoring the vital role of the press in informing the public and the necessity of legal protections to safeguard journalistic integrity.
Throughout the legal proceedings, the identities of the accusers remained confidential, consistent with AP's policy of not disclosing the names of sexual assault victims. However, Kuta later consented to be named in subsequent news coverage, further intensifying public interest in the case.
Despite the court's decision, the legal saga may not yet be over as Wynn's legal team considers its options following the dismissal of the defamation lawsuit. Nevertheless, the ruling represents a significant victory for press freedom and the robust protection of journalists' rights in the state of Nevada and elsewhere.