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Federal Judge Rules Covington Student’s $275M Libel Lawsuit against NBC May Proceed

Nathan Phillips (right) confronts a student from Covington Catholic High School in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Kaya Taitano/Social Media/via Reuters)

Federal judge William Bertelsman on Thursday allowed Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s $275 million libel lawsuit against NBCUniversal to move forward, rejecting the media company’s attempt to have the suit dismissed in full even as he threw out parts of it.

Sandmann, 16, sued NBC and other major news outlets in the aftermath of their coverage of a controversial interaction he and several of his classmates had with Native American activist Nathan Phillips near the Lincoln Memorial on January 18. Viral video of the incident showed Sandmann and Phillips standing face to face as Phillips loudly beat on a drum and Sandmann smirked from time to time. NBC asserted that Sandmann “blocked” Phillips and “did not allow him to retreat” during their interaction. Longer versions of the video showed that Phillips approached Sandmann, who stood mostly still during the incident.

Sandmann and his classmates wore “Make America Great Again” caps and were attending the annual anti-abortion March for Life, while Phillips was participating in the Indigenous Peoples March.

Phillips has claimed Sandmann “just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

Sandmann’s lawsuit against NBC will now continue to discovery, according to his, attorney, L. Lin Wood, who called it a “huge win” for his client.

“As predicted, today Judge Bertelsman entered an order allowing the Nicholas Sandmann case against NBCUniversal to proceed to discovery just as he had earlier ruled with respect to WaPo & CNN cases. Huge, huge win!” Wood wrote on Twitter.

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