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A flurry of litigation over a controversial documentary film about Sen. John F. Kerry’s anti-Vietnam War activities in the 1970s fizzled to nothing earlier this year when a pair of plaintiffs dropped their libel suits against the filmmaker and a federal judge tossed out the filmmaker’s civil rights suit against Kerry. Now get ready for the sequel. In a new lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, filmmaker Carlton A. Sherwood is accusing the two plaintiffs who sued him of filing lawsuits they knew were frivolous because they wanted to damage Sherwood’s reputation and chill his free speech right to find an audience for the film, titled Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal. The suit alleges claims under the Dragonetti Act against Kenneth J. Campbell and Jon Bjornson, the two Vietnam veterans who filed, but later dropped, defamation suits against Sherwood. Sherwood’s lawyers � Robert C. Clothier, Matthew R. Salzwedel and Beth Domenick of Fox Rothschild � set out in the suit to prove that Sherwood’s film was true, and that Campbell and Bjornson were both Kerry supporters who had improper motives when they filed their defamation suits. The lawyer who represented both Campbell and Bjornson, James E. Beasley Jr. of The Beasley Firm, declined to comment on the suit because he has not yet seen it. In the 46-page suit, Sherwood and his production company, Red White & Blue Productions Inc., contend that Beasley’s clients filed the defamation suits because they wanted to stop the film from being shown � and that their efforts succeeded. The film was set to be shown on television and in a theater in Abington, Pa., but Sherwood claims that due to explicit threats of litigation the Baederwood Theatre canceled its showing and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group showed only five minutes of the 42-minute film on its 62 television stations. Stolen Honor, which was released just before the 2004 presidential election, alleges that Kerry and other Vietnam vets who protested the war claimed that American soldiers were routinely committing war crimes by killing civilians and mistreating prisoners. The film tells the story of an alleged campaign by Kerry and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to spread allegations that American soldiers were committing war crimes “on a day-to-day basis with full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” The film also focuses on the impact those efforts had on American prisoners of war in Hanoi, who say in the film that their treatment was made much worse when their North Vietnamese captors decided that, as war criminals, they were not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention. Sherwood claims in the suit that his purpose in making the film was to “set the record straight.” “Contrary to the war crimes allegations made by some in 1971, American soldiers were not �baby killers’ and did not kill civilians or torture POWs on a regular basis and/or pursuant to official United States policy,” the suit says. Sherwood’s suit says Campbell claimed in his defamation suit that the film defamed him even though he was never identified or mentioned by name. According to Clothier, the film “merely show(s) him for a few seconds in a 35-year-old film clip asking questions of another man who said he had �forgotten’ about wiping out an entire village in Vietnam.” But Beasley, in the defamation suit, focused on a brief section of the film that, he said, portrayed Campbell in a false light by creating the impression that Campbell’s anti-war efforts, as documented in the film Winter Soldier, were nothing more than false allegations of wartime atrocities. By showing only a tiny snippet of Winter Soldier, the suit said, Sherwood’s film engaged in “intentionally misleading editing” that left out critical facts showing that Campbell and the man he was speaking with were, in fact, Vietnam vets who “were aware of and/or participated in massacres (other than My Lai), and wished to truthfully show the American people and government the pattern and practice of the U.S. military in Vietnam, as evidenced by first-hand accounts of village massacres and murder in contradiction of international laws and the rules of our military.” Now that Campbell has dropped the suit, Sherwood is claiming that Campbell never had a legitimate purpose in filing it. Sherwood’s suit alleges that, on the day Campbell filed suit, The Beasley Firm hand-delivered letters to the Baederwood Theatre and Sinclair Broadcasting “informing them of Campbell’s lawsuit and saying that they could become defendants in the lawsuit if they chose to show, broadcast or screen Stolen Honor.” Campbell’s purpose, Sherwood claims, was to chill Sherwood’s free speech rights and to prevent his film from being shown. On Election Day, the suit says, Campbell was invited to Kerry’s party in Boston � an invitation that Sherwood claims was given in “appreciation” of Campbell’s efforts to stop the film from being shown. Sherwood also claims that Campbell dropped his lawsuit on July 7 because he wanted to avoid a series of key depositions in the case in which, Sherwood claims, witnesses would have revealed that Campbell’s 1971 war crimes allegations were false. “Campbell withdrew his lawsuits voluntarily because he feared that if he did not discontinue them, the depositions of critical third-party witnesses, which were to commence a few days later, would show that the war crimes he alleged were true in his complaint and which he and others had asserted for decades were lies,” the suit says. The suit also alleges that Campbell knew “long before” July 7 that he intended to drop his suit, but that he “deliberately and maliciously” delayed that decision “until the very last minute” because he wanted to impose the “maximum economic cost” on Sherwood. Sherwood claims Bjornson filed a “copycat” suit that parroted the claims made by Campbell, and that he, too, had improper motives. “Bjornson brought his lawsuit solely to defame Sherwood and damage his reputation as a journalist, to falsely discredit Stolen Honor, to chill the exercise of Sherwood’s � First Amendment rights, to harass and impoverish Sherwood � and to prevent Stolen Honor from being broadcast or shown,” the suit alleges.

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