Family of fallen Wyoming U.S. Marine re-files defamation lawsuit against Alec Baldwin
Laura Ly, CNN
(CNN) — The family of fallen U.S. Marine Rylee J. McCollum has re-filed their lawsuit against actor Alec Baldwin for defamation in New York, according to a complaint filed Friday.
Rylee’s widow, Jiennah McCollum, and Rylee’s sisters, Roice McCollum and Cheyenne McCollum, are seeking $25 million in damages. They accuse Baldwin of making false allegations against the family, including allegedly calling Roice McCollum an “insurrectionist” in January 2022 after she posted a photo of a crowd of protesters in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 to social media.
“While she was present at the [January 6th] demonstration, Roice did not take part in, nor did she support or condone the rioting that erupted,” the lawsuit states. “Baldwin plainly ignored Roice’s denial of rioting and the assertion that she was cleared by the FBI for participating in any of the conduct Baldwin chose to falsely attribute to her via his massive following.”
The sisters and widow filed a similar lawsuit against Baldwin in Wyoming in January. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in May, finding that it did not have jurisdiction over Baldwin there since he lives in New York.
At the time, Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas, welcomed the decision. He said the lawsuit sought to “punish Mr. Baldwin for expressing his political opinion.”
The re-filed lawsuit also claims that Baldwin’s comments resulted in severe emotional distress for the plaintiffs.
“Mr. Baldwin donated several thousand dollars to Ms. McCollum to honor her husband, and now she’s suing him for more because she disagrees with his political opinion about the insurrection that occurred on January 6th at the U.S. Capitol Building. We expect to prevail in this lawsuit, as we did the last time they filed it,” Nikas told CNN Wednesday.
Rylee McCollum, 20, was one of 13 U.S. service members who were killed in an attack outside the Kabul airport last August as the US and other Western countries raced to evacuate their citizens and allies out of Afghanistan.
After Rylee’s death, an online fundraiser was started on behalf of his widow, Jiennah, and her child. Baldwin sent Roice a check for $5000 to share with Jiennah as “a tribute to a fallen soldier,” the lawsuit states.
However, the lawsuit states that after Roice posted the photos of protesters in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 to her Instagram account on January 3, “in anticipation of the January 6, 2022, one-year anniversary of her attendance” at the protest, Baldwin commented on Roice’s post, “Are you the same woman that I sent the $ to for your sister’s husband who was killed during the Afghanistan exit?”
Roice “was never detained, arrested, charged with or convicted of any crime associated with her attendance at the January 6, 2021, event in Washington, DC,” the lawsuit said.
She responded to Baldwin, according to the suit, that, “Protesting is perfectly legal in the country and I’ve already had my sit down with the FBI. Thanks, have a nice day!”
Baldwin responded, the lawsuit states, with, “I don’t think so. Your activities resulted in the unlawful destruction of government property, the death of a law enforcement officer, an assault on the certification of the presidential election. I reposted your photo. Good luck.”
Approximately 20 minutes after Baldwin posted to Roice’s “Instagram feed,” she “began to get hostile, aggressive, hateful messages from Baldwin’s followers,” the suit alleges.
Baldwin also posted a message to his own Instagram feed, which he later deleted, stating, “Lots of Trumpsters chiming in here with the current cry that the attack on the Capitol was a protest, (a more peaceful form of which got a lot of other protestors imprisoned) and an exercise in democracy. That’s bulls—.”
His post continued, according to screenshots included in the suit, “I did some research. I found, on IG, that this woman [Roice McCollum] is the brother (sic) of one of the men who was killed” killed,” in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“I offered to send her sister-in-law [Jiennah McCollum] some $ as a tribute to her late brother, his widow and their child. Which I did. As a tribute to a fallen soldier. Then I find this. Truth is stranger than fiction,” his post added.
The suit states Baldwin, “unequivocally understood that by forwarding Roice’s Instagram feed to 2.4 million like-minded followers and posting his commentary would result in the onslaught of threats and hatred that it did.”
Hours after Baldwin’s post, Lance’s other sister, Cheyenne, and his widow, Jiennah, began receiving “hateful messages and even death threats,” according to the suit.
“Neither Cheyenne nor Jiennah” were in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021,” the suit claims.