The attorneys representing former Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler in his defamation suit against the media company have asked U.S. District Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York to let them withdraw as counsel, according to court filings.
Wigdor LLP name attorney Douglas Wigdor and his team cited “irreconcilable differences” with their client, who has alleged a story that appeared on Fox News’ website improperly attached his name to quotes in a story about former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
The story, which Fox later retracted, went on to spur conspiracy theories about Rich’s connection to internal DNC emails that were published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“[A]n irrevocable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship exists with respect to Wigdor LLP and Mr. Wheeler. Such circumstances are sufficient to warrant withdrawal,” the memorandum of law filed by Wigdor on Monday stated.
The memo state that, if Daniels required, Wigdor was prepared to provide the court in camera, ex parte information that laid out the reasons that warranted the withdrawal.
Wigdor declined a request to comment or for more information about what precipitated the requested split.
The motion comes at a critical juncture for the suit. Already Wheeler has dropped some of the initial claims of racial discrimination. Daniels currently has a number of motions from the defense before him, including a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration in the matter.
The amended complaint, filed in October, alleged that Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and financial adviser Ed Butowsky, a regular guest on the cable network, defamed and libeled Wheeler when they worked together to attribute quotes to Wheeler that alluded to efforts to keep information about Rich’s connections to WikiLeaks from becoming public.
“My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward,” the story quotes Wheeler, who said he was recruited by Butowsky and Zimmerman to investigate Rich’s death, as saying.
Rich was murdered in the early morning of July 10, 2016, while walking to his Washington, D.C., home. So far, no suspect has been apprehended in the murder, which police have reportedly characterized as a botched robbery attempt.
Members of Rich’s family have also filed suit against the same defendants, claiming intentional inflection of emotional distress.