Charlotte Injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question: “What is the value of my case?”
In the aftermath of the Brock Turner rape case this year, in which Turner was sentenced to six (6) months in jail after being convicted of raping an unconscious woman, you may remember hearing about Lang Her’s eerily similar case.
Her, like Turner, was a male undergraduate student at a California university. The women they were convicted of raping were classmates of each.
After two (2) mistrials, Her was found guilty after pleading “no contest” to his charges. He was sentenced this July to one year in jail.
This is not to diminish the effects that months spent in jail and having to register as a sex offender have on a person, both of which can follow a person for the rest of their life. However, Turner’s and Her’s cases bear further similarities that cannot escape unnoticed.
Each vehemently denied the claims against them in court, only to eventually change stories and claim consensual contact with their victims.
And after the juries that convicted each finished deliberating, both Turner and Her claimed victimization. Turner’s defense submitted statements by both Turner and those close to him to the sentencing judge, chalking his actions up to college drinking culture and decrying the ways in which his upbeat outlook on life and future had been dampened by the charges against him. After sentencing Turner aggressively lobbied for a retrial (a legal impossibility, by the way, due to Double Jeopardy issues).
Her decided to take things a step further. After the scrutiny of three trials for all parties involved, the third of which resulted in conviction, Her has now filed a $4 million defamation suit against his victim and her family…for calling him a rapist.
Here’s the thing. A core element in any defamation case is that the defamatory statement be false.
The other elements are that the statement be 1) made to a third party, and that the statement be 2) unprivileged information that 3) has a natural tendency to injure the plaintiff (in reputation, business opportunities etc.), and 4) that the defendant’s fault in communicating the statement amounted to at least negligence.
In California, as in many states, communicating certain things are considered defamation per se, meaning they are defamatory on their face and don’t require the plaintiff to prove that the statement actually injured them. Alleging someone is guilty of a crime, for example, is considered defamation per se in California–if they haven’t already been convicted of that crime.
There have been somewhat similar cases in the past where a person was convicted of a crime, had the conviction expunged from their record, and then gone on to sue individuals for “defaming” them by talking about their expunged conviction. Even in those cases, the courts have found there was no defamation.
As one court put it, although an expungement means under the eyes of the law that the expunged conviction did not occur, expungement cannot convert a once-true fact to a falsehood.
Unless Her ends up alleging that his victim and her family spread things above and beyond what the criminal court found as fact beyond a reasonable doubt, it seems highly unlikely that this case will go forward, but we’ll have to wait and see. Until then, the woman who survived his attack has yet another court appearance to look forward to.
If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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