By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, Sept 30 Sheldon Adelson, the
billionaire casino magnate and prominent Republican donor, has
lost a $60 million libel lawsuit in which he claimed a
Democratic group spread a false accusation that he had condoned
prostitution in his casinos in Macau.
At issue was an article published on July 3, 2012 by the
National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) on its website that
sought to dissuade then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney and
other Republicans from accepting Adelson's allegedly "dirty" and
It cited reports about an accusation that the Las Vegas
Sands Corp chief executive "personally approved of
prostitution" in his Macau properties.
U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken in Manhattan on Monday
said the article constituted protected speech and was not
The accusation, which Adelson has denied, had surfaced in a
wrongful termination lawsuit against him by fired Las Vegas
Sands executive Steven Jacobs. It was discussed in an Associated
Press article about that lawsuit, to which the NJDC provided a
hyperlink in its article online.
L. Lin Wood, a lawyer for Adelson, in an emailed statement
said the decision denies his client "the basic right of trial by
jury," and that an appeal is likely. He also said Las Vegas
Sands has a "no tolerance" policy for prostitution.
"The statement by the National Jewish Democratic Council at
issue in this case remains a boldfaced lie," said Wood, a
partner at Wood, Hernacki & Evans in Atlanta.
Adelson, 80, is worth $28.5 billion and the 11th-richest
American, Forbes magazine said this month, and had donated tens
of millions of dollars to Republican candidates and
organizations in the 2012 election cycle.
He claimed that the NJDC article was intended to advance the
group's political interests by "assassinating" his character.
But in a 57-page decision, Oetken said Adelson failed to
show that the defendants, which also included NJDC Chairman Marc
Stanley and former NJDC President David Harris, acted with
actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.
The judge said the expressions "dirty money" and "tainted
money" were imprecise and could not be proven true or false, and
in context constituted protected expressions of opinion.
He also said the use of the hyperlink was proper, and that
the defendant's reliance upon an article from a "reputable" news
organization precluded a finding of liability.
"Protecting defendants who hyperlink to their sources is
good public policy, as it fosters the facile dissemination of
knowledge on the Internet," Oetken wrote. "It is to be expected,
and celebrated, that the increasing access to information should
decrease the need for defamation suits."
Adelson had sought $10 million of compensatory damages and
$50 million of punitive damages. Oetken also ordered him to pay
the defendants' legal fees.
In a phone interview, Stanley said he was pleased with the
decision. "You just can't bully people with your money, and
Adelson was trying to bully us with a lawsuit to suppress our
speech during the election," he said. "David beat Goliath."
The case is Adelson v. Harris et al, U.S. District Court,
Southern District of New York, No. 12-06052.