Lawyers representing Nick Sandmann, the teen in the viral video with a Native American elder in a protest in Washington, D.C., have sent an evidence-preservation letter to Atlanta-based CNN and other media companies in preparation for potential defamation litigation.
CNN communications contacts did not have an immediate response.
Atlanta defamation attorney L. Lin Wood and trial lawyer Todd McMurtry of Hemmer DeFrank Wessels in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, announced last week that they’ve been retained by the family of Nick Sandmann, 16, a Covington Catholic School 11th-grader.
The lawyers said the Jan. 18 “March for Life” event in “turned into a personal nightmare when Nick became the focus of false and defamatory accusations published and broadcast across the nation and the world.”
The video showed the student—wearing a “MAGA” hat for President Donald Trump’s “make America great again” campaign slogan—standing almost face-to-face with protester Nathan Phillips, who was beating a drum and chanting. Initial social media postings said the teen was mocking the older man, and that other students were shouting “build that wall,” referring to Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S. Southern border. Later reports and longer videos showed the students had been profanely jeered by a different group of protesters. Sandmann then gave interviews saying his classmates were responding with school cheers to drown out the other protesters, that he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful and that he never heard anyone say, “Build that wall.”
The lawyers said in a joint statement Friday a “mob” of “activists, church and school officials, members of the mainstream print and broadcast media” and others on social media “rushed to condemn and vilify this young man by burying him in an avalanche of false accusations, false portrayals, and cyberbullying that have threatened his reputation and his physical safety.”
The lawyers said they would be “carefully reviewing all of the false accusations and threats made against Nick.” They said they “fully expect that a multitude of civil lawsuits will be filed and aggressively pursued.”
McMurtry said Wednesday that he and Wood have sent out similar versions of a letter to media outlets and other individuals. The Cincinnati Enquirer published a sample of the letter from McMurtry.
“Please preserve all information that may be relevant to the Sandmann Matter,” the letter says. “If our clients pursue litigation, we intend to serve … discovery requests to access your computer networks and systems, and to seek the production of relevant documents and communications.”
The letter asked for delivery of a copy to “all persons responsible” for computer networks, systems and records management.
The lawyers have also produced and posted their own, longer video about the incident on You Tube. It’s titled “Nick Sandmann: the Truth in 15 minutes.”