A three-judge panel of Louisiana’s Court of Appeal, Second Circuit has upheld a trial court’s finding that KTVE-TV10 reporter Daisy O’Donnell DID NOT defame Monroe businessman Nouri “Eddie” Hakim in an August 2011 news broadcast. The court released the opinion earlier today.
For the reasons stated above, the ruling of the trial court, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants, Daisy O’Donnell and Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc., d/b/a KTVE NBC 10, and dismissing the claims of the plaintiff, N. Edward Hakim, is affirmed. Costs in this court are assessed to the plaintiff.
Hakim had claimed in his suit that that O’Donnell’s question to one the defendants (former Monroe City Councilman Robert “Red” Stevens) in that 2011 news broadcast was defamatory. Asked O’Donnell:
Eddie Hakim gave testimony to make his IRS investigation go away. Is it enough to acquit you?
Hakim was chief prosecution witness against Stevens and another council member, Arthur Gilmore. Both were on trial for public bribery. Their defense team presented what they claimed was evidence that Hakim was receiving favorable tax treatment in exchange for his testimony.
Stevens and Gilmore’s convictions were reversed and then reinstated. The prosecution consented to a new trial, where they were ultimately convicted.
Even though the federal trial court later reversed its ruling, its initial ruling shows that, even with an intense, thorough, and lengthy review of all the factors in this case, that court concluded that the plaintiff received a benefit from the termination of the IRS investigation of him. This conclusion was very similar to that drawn by O’Donnell, a lay person, immediately after the hearing. In this context, it is clear that the conclusion drawn by O’Donnell may have been a misunderstanding of the stipulation she heard in court, but her conclusion certainly was reasonable and
understandable. Her statement was a fair abridgment of the occurrence reported and was a comment on a judicial proceeding made in the reasonable belief of its truth.
The plaintiff had the burden of proving his probable success on his defamation claim against the defendants. Against the backdrop of the undisputed facts of this case, it is clear that a conditional privilege applied, raising the standard of liability to be proved by the plaintiff to that of actual malice.
See here the document.