High Court Won't Hear Hatfill Suit

NY Times off the hook for columns on 2001 anthrax attacks
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2008 2:52 PM CST

(Newser) – The US Supreme Court will not hear an appeal of Steven Hatfill’s defamation suit against the New York Times, Bloomberg reports. Hatfill, who was once suspected of masterminding the 2001 anthrax attacks, has long maintained that the paper's coverage—specifically, columns by Nicholas Kristof—damaged his reputation. But lower courts ruled that his prominence in the field of bioterrorism made him a public figure, and the high court agreed.

Hatfill’s lawyers have argued that Kristof's columns introduced him to the public. Before the articles, “Hatfill was virtually unknown,” the appeal said. “But Kristof made Hatfill infamous.” Because of his public persona, lower courts argued, Hatfill had to prove that the Times acted with “actual malice.” Hatfill was exonerated this year and reached a $5.8 million settlement with the Justice Department.