Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime win dismissal of Roy Moore defamation lawsuit

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NEW YORK, July 13 (Reuters) - British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen on Tuesday won the dismissal of a $95 million defamation lawsuit by Roy Moore, a former U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama who claimed he was tricked into being portrayed falsely as a sex offender on Cohen's Showtime series "Who Is America?"

U.S. District Judge John Cronan in Manhattan said Moore's signed consent agreement barred him from suing Baron Cohen, Showtime and its parent ViacomCBS Inc (VIAC.O)over the July 2018 broadcast, including for intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud.

Moore, 74, sued over an interview with Baron Cohen in Washington, D.C., where the former Republican chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court expected to receive an award for supporting Israel.

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Baron Cohen, disguised as fictional Israeli anti-terrorism expert Erran Morad, instead demonstrated a wand-like device that purportedly detected pedophiles and beeped when waved near Moore, who walked out.

In a 26-page decision, Cronan said the segment was "clearly a joke," and no reasonable viewer would see it differently.

"It is simply inconceivable that the program's audience would have found a segment with Judge Moore activating a supposed pedophile-detecting wand to be grounded in any factual basis," Cronan wrote.

Moore and his wife Kayla, also a plaintiff, quickly appealed.

"Judge Cronan's ruling makes no factual and legal sense," Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer representing the Moores, said in a statement. "To the contrary, Judge Cronan's dismissal is the joke, and more than a bad joke at that."

Showtime declined to comment. Lawyers for Baron Cohen did

not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Moore earlier sought to disqualify Cronan, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump, for allegedly opposing his political and religious beliefs.

Running in heavily Republican Alabama, Moore lost his 2017 Senate race to Democrat Doug Jones after being accused of sexual misconduct toward female teenagers while in his 30s.

Moore has denied wrongdoing.

Baron Cohen, 49, won the dismissal in 2007 of a lawsuit by two former fraternity students who claimed they were duped while drunk into appearing in his film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy

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