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A federal appeals court Tuesday threw out a defamation judgment against a filmmaker critical of former President Clinton, saying one of the conspiracy-laden videos blurred the line between fact and fiction, but two sheriff’s deputies mentioned in the film had no standing to sue. In dismissing a $598,750 judgment against Patrick Matrisciana, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis wrote that it was not saying he was ethical or fair in his documentary about the railroad track deaths of two Saline County, Arkansas, teen-agers. The video, “Obstruction of Justice: the Mena Connection,” focused on the unsolved deaths of Kevin Ives and Don Henry. In the documentary, Pulaski County, Arkansas, sheriff’s Lts. Jay Campbell and Kirk Lane were listed among six law enforcement officers that alleged eyewitnesses said could be implicated “in the murders and the subsequent cover-up.” The court said the sheriff’s lieutenants were public figures and had to prove Matrisciana knew the information was false or that he was reckless in weighing information presented in the film. Ives and Henry were found dead in 1987 after being hit by a train while laying on the tracks. Their deaths were initially ruled accidental due to marijuana intoxication, but after a second autopsy and a lawsuit filed by Ives’ parents, the deaths were ruled homicides. “As the theory goes, they were first killed and their bodies then laid on the tracks to make their deaths appear accidental,” the court wrote. Matrisciana’s defense at his trial centered on his right to freedom of expression. He said that, according to his research, the boys were walking down the train tracks about 4 a.m. on Aug. 23, 1987, when they came upon a small plane dropping a cargo of illegal drugs as it flew without lights 100 feet from the ground. A witness reported seeing the boys seized by two men, and their bodies were found after they had been run over by a train. Various conspiracy theories floated during the Clinton administration suggested that illegal drugs were routinely flown into the airport at Mena in western Arkansas during the 1980s and that Clinton, then Arkansas’ governor, knew about it but did nothing to combat it. Matrisciana, who also produced “The Clinton Chronicles,” which took a highly critical view of the former president, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles that justice had been served. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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