A federal judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit filed against Glenn Beck by a Saudi student Beck repeatedly accused of funding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, according to Politico.
Beck had previously tried to claim that the student, who happened to be a darker-skinned man standing near the finish line during the Boston Bombing, was a public figure by happenstance — Abdulrahman Alharbi’s very presence at the tragedy made him subject to public scrutiny and accusations.
Alharbi, who was also injured in the attack, was briefly a person of interest in the bombings.
That didn’t stop Glenn Beck from weaving him into a complicated conspiracy theory that dragged the student through the mud for weeks.
If deemed a public figure, Alharbi would have had to prove “actual malice” — the court would have had to find that Beck intentionally lied or recklessly disregarded the truth when he claimed that Alharbi was really an al Qaeda “control agent” and “money man” who had financed the bombings and recruited the Tsarnaev brothers to carry the act of terrorism out.
U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris said that attending the event did not make Alharbi a public figure:
“Choosing to attend a sporting event as one of thousands of spectators is not the kind of conduct that a reasonable person would expect to result in publicity. Quite to the contrary, a spectator at an event like the Boston Marathon would reasonably expect to disappear into the throngs of others, never attracting notice by the press. Because he did not ‘assume the risk of publicity,’ Alharbi does not meet the definition of an involuntary public figure.”
Alharbi was soon cleared by authorities of any wrongdoing. That should have been the end of it:
“Even if a private person meets the definition of an involuntary public figure as a matter of bad luck during a public controversy, the status is of limited duration. As such, Alharbi lost that status when his name was cleared.”
The case will now move into the discovery phases of the lawsuit.
The 20-year-old student said in the lawsuit filed last April his reputation was “substantially and severely damaged” as a result of Beck’s statements on the air linking him to the bombings.
Alharbi is not the only person whose life was turned upside-down by unsubstantiated conspiracy theories related to the Boston Marathon bombings.
In April, 2013, another student, Sunil Tripathi, who had been falsely accused of involvement in the bombings by a hoard of conspiracy theorists on Reddit was found dead. Investigators later confirmed that he had committed suicide under the weight of those false accusations.
[Image Credit: Yahoo News]