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Covington Catholic’s Nick Sandmann Settles $275 Million NBC Lawsuit for ‘Confidential’ Amount

Nick Sandmann, who at the time was a Covington Catholic student, appears in a screengrab taken from a video filed as an exhibit in federal court.

Nick Sandmann, who at the time was a Covington Catholic student, appears in a screengrab taken from a video that was filed as an exhibit in federal court.

A then-Catholic school student who was recorded on video standing in front of a Native American protester in Washington, D.C. has announced a settlement with NBC more than two years after filing a multi-million-dollar defamation claim. Nicholas Sandmann wrote on Twitter Friday night that the “terms are confidential.”

Sandmann’s statement was backed up by a terse two-page entry in the court record on Friday.  After accounting for the perfunctory headings and signature blocks, the document reads, in relevant part, as follows:  “Pursuant to FRCP 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), the plaintiff, Nicholas Sandmann, and the defendant, NBCUniversal Media, LLC, hereby stipulate to the dismissal of this action, with prejudice and in its entirety.”

The cited Federal Rule of Civil Procedure allows for the “voluntary dismissal” of a case “by the plaintiff” without a court order if “all parties” sign and agree to the termination of the proceeding.

Sandmann’s motion notably dismissed the action “with prejudice,” meaning it cannot be refiled.  The default rule is that a dismissal generally occurs without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled, but parties can override that presumption (as was done here).

NBC was one of several broadcast networks and publications Sandmann sued for defamation after various video recordings — which portrayed Sandmann wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat popularized by Donald Trump — became viral fodder for commentators.

Sandmann, in his original May 1, 2019 lawsuit against NBC, described himself as a “16-year old student who stood quietly for several minutes after being unexpectedly confronted without explanation by Nathan Phillips,” the Native American activist seen on the recording.  Phillips “beat a drum and sang loudly within inches of [Sandmann’s] face on January 18, 2019, at the Lincoln Memorial,” the lawsuit continued.

The lawsuit went on to slam NBC’s properties as having “a well-known bias against conservatives in general and President Donald J. Trump in particular.”

“MSNBC has a well-known bias in favor of liberal political views and against conservative political views, publicly positioning itself as a liberal alternative to Fox News,” it added.

The lawsuit further alleged that “NBCUniversal unleashed its vast corporate wealth, influence, and power against Nicholas to falsely attack him despite the fact at the time, he was a 16-year old high school student.”

The original lawsuit continued:

NBCUniversal attacked Nicholas by relying heavily on biased and unreliable sources without conducting any reasonable investigation of the circumstances surrounding the January 18 incident.

NBCUniversal’s attacks on Nicholas included at least fifteen (15) defamatory television broadcasts, six (6) defamatory online articles, and many tweets falsely accusing Nicholas and his Covington Catholic High School (“CovCath”) classmates of racist acts, including among other things, engaging in racist conduct by instigating a threatening confrontation with several African American men (“the Black Hebrew Israelites”) and subsequently instigating a threatening confrontation with Native Americans who were allegedly in the midst of prayer during the Indigenous Peoples March at the National Mall when Nicholas confronted them, during which NBCUniversal asserted Nicholas assaulted both the Black Hebrew Israelites and Native American political activist Phillips.

NBC Universal created a false narrative by portraying the “confrontation” as a “hate crime” committed by Nicholas.

Later, the lawsuit said “NBCUniversal created panels on its talk shows to frame the January 18 incident as one involving a ‘hate crime’ and demonstrating ‘white supremacy’ as a result of ‘whites’ being ’emboldened’ by President Trump’s presence in the White House.” The document accused the news organization of using “a carefully selected few seconds” of “heavily edited videos that omitted the entire context of the incident.”

Sandmann asserted via the court papers that he “was instead the victim of two separate groups of adult political activists.” A number of videos eventually revealed, according to the lawsuit, “that it was Phillips who approached Nicholas.”

The lawsuit originally sought $75 million in compensatory damages “to fully compensate Nicholas for the perpetual harm, emotional distress, and mental anguish suffered as a result of NBCUniversal’s false attacks.” It also sought an additional $200 million “to punish” and “deter NBCUniversal from ever again engaging in false, reckless, malicious, and agenda-driven attacks against children in violation of well-recognized journalistic standards and ethics.”

Sandmann filed an amended complaint in the NBC case in August 2019.

He previously settled a similar lawsuit against the Washington Post for an officially undisclosed amount.  Prior to that, he settled with CNN, also for an amount that reportedly almost — but apparently never — was officially disclosed.

Several other Sandmann lawsuits remain outstanding.

Read the original complaint and the stipulation of dismissal below:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.