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A federal judge in D.C. threw out a defamation suit against the Center for Public Integrity last week. Russian industrialists Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven sued the nonprofit over an August 2000 article it published reporting the two men were allegedly involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. U.S. District Court Judge John Bates wrote in his Sept. 27 decision that the article wasn’t published with malicious intent — the difficult legal standard public figures like Fridman and Aven are required to meet to prove they were defamed. The Constitution demands a “vibrant exchange of ideas on issues of public concern,” Bates wrote, but he also said the center was “not without fault.” The reporters, Knut Royce and Nathaniel Heller, “likely should have researched certain points more carefully before leveling allegations as serious as . . . organized crime connections,” Bates wrote. Be that as it may, Bill Allison, the center’s editor at large, says the ruling is gratifying. “There was mild rebuke here and there,” Allison says. “You can always make one more phone call as a reporter. But there comes a time when you have to write a story and put it out there.” Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld lawyers representing Fridman and Aven did not return calls.
Lily Henning can be contacted at [email protected].

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