Defamation / Reputation
Johnson v. Steele
Closed Mixed Outcome
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Defamation requires that the defendant have knowledge that the allegedly defamatory statement is false. If knowledge cannot be established an action for defamation will be dismissed.
This case stems from an article published by Afanasev after the following events occured. Relatives of a murder suspect requested Afanasev report on the suspect’s investigation hoping that press presence would prevent the police from beating the suspect. On October 9, 2012, Afanasev began shooting a video outside of a police station where the suspect was being held. Various police officers attempted to stop Afanasev and knocked on his car. Eventually, Afanasev was arrested and detained for three days for resisting police orders and tried in court for the crime. Afanasev was acquitted and on December 9, 2012, published a story titled “You Are a Liar, Colonel Zlotnikov!” Zlotnikov was the police officer who charged Afanasev with resisting police orders. In late December 2012, Afanasev was notified that Zlotnikov filed a criminal complaint against him for defamation (Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, Article 128) and insult (CC RU, Article 319). The trial was held on Sepember 9, 2013. The court acquitted Afanasev of all charges on the basis that the evidence presented by the Prosecutor relied on false statements of Zlotnikov.
The court of first instance acquitted Afanasev of all charges. The court agreed with the conclusion of a linguistics expert that Afanasev’s article insulted Zlotnikov. However, the court determined that Afanasev’s article took extracts about Zlotnikov from a trial transcript that portrayed him as a liar. Court documents are treated as statements of fact. Thus, Afanasev’s article about Zlotnikov was a statement of truth. The judge ruled Afansev not guilty of defamation and insult because a prima facie case of the crime was not met, specifically the defendant’s knowledge of the falsity of the information.
Zlotnikov appealed the decision of the court of first instance. The appellate court upheld the decision of the court of first instance.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The Court acquitted the defendant because the plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case for defamation.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The court applied the prima facie test of defamation.
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