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Ex-Dominion executive’s defamation claims may proceed against Trump campaign and supporters

The defendants repeated unproven allegations of fraud but ‘did not even couch the statements with qualifying language like “I think,” “I believe,” or “in my opinion,”‘ wrote Judge Karl Schock

Colorado’s second-highest court on Thursday agreed a former executive of Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems may proceed with his defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and several prominent supporters who publicly accused him of rigging the 2020 election based on the unproven claims of a conservative podcaster.

A three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals concluded Eric Coomer, the director of product strategy and security for Dominion, presented sufficient evidence the statements accusing him of criminal conduct were false and made maliciously amid a broader campaign by Trump to discredit his election loss.

There was a “reasonable likelihood that a jury could find that defendants were touting the theory as fact — whether for entertainment purposes or to bolster their claims of election irregularities more generally — without being convinced beyond serious doubt of its truth,” wrote Judge Karl L. Schock in the April 11 opinion.

The defendants, who included Trump’s campaign; Trump’s former lawyer, Sidney Powell; conservative commentator Michelle Malkin; and The Gateway Pundit website, sought to dismiss Coomer’s lawsuit under Colorado’s relatively-new “anti-SLAPP” law, which stands for “strategic lawsuits against public participation.” The legislature enacted the law in 2019 to provide a mechanism to quickly dispose of litigation that implicates a person’s First Amendment rights — specifically, the rights to free speech and to petition the government.

Although the Court of Appeals has interpreted the anti-SLAPP law in the context of consumer reviews and in elections-related communications, Coomer’s case is the first to address a defendant’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud with national implications.

‘A straight line’ to Jan. 6

Previously, a trial judge found “overwhelming” evidence of defamation, and the appeals panel similarly believed a jury could find in Coomer’s favor. Coomer’s claims originated in a November 2020 podcast recorded by Joe Oltmann, who is also a defendant. Days after the presidential election, Oltmann alleged he had recently listened in on an “antifa” conference call — a reference to anti-fascist ideology.

On the call, an unnamed participant referenced “Eric … the Dominion guy.” Oltmann alleged “Eric” said, “Don’t worry about the election, Trump is not gonna win. I made f-ing sure of that.”

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