Steve Wynn Scores Victory Against Associated Press in Ongoing Defamation Suit

Posted on: October 29, 2020, 11:11h. 

Last updated on: October 30, 2020, 10:02h.

Steve Wynn, the former patriarch of the gaming entity bearing his surname, notched a win of his own against the Associated Press (AP) Thursday in Nevada Supreme Court.

Steve Wynn
Steve Wynn, seen here discussing plans for Encore Boston Harbor, scored a legal win against the Associated Press. (Image: New York Times)

The Silver State high court sided with the former casino developer in a defamation suit he brought against the news service in 2018. The court’s decision reverses a ruling made two years ago by Clark County District Court Judge Ronald Israel to dismiss the litigation.

Counsel for Wynn argued that a February 2018 article written by reporter Regina Garcia Cano lacked full context regarding sexual misconduct claims levied against the gaming scion by Halina Kuta. That article was written during a sexual misconduct scandal that eventually resulted in Wynn’s departure from the company he founded.

In its Thursday opinion, the Nevada Supreme Court said the district court that previously heard the case concluded fair report privilege was an applicable defense, shielding the AP from defamation liability.

In resolving Wynn’s appeal, we must consider what qualifies as an official action or proceeding warranting application of the fair report privilege to one who reports it,” according to the court.

The added that it disagrees Kuta’s complaint qualifies as an official action or proceeding to be covered by fair reporting privilege. That stems from counsel for Wynn arguing that simply because law enforcement took a report, “application of the fair report privilege would be inconsistent with the underlying policies behind the privilege.”

Sordid History

Kuta’s allegations against Wynn border on the tawdry. She accused the former gaming boss of sexually assaulting her in the 1970s, and that she later gave birth to his child at a Chicago-area gas station restroom. She also said she was the muse for Pablo Picasso’s “Le Reve” — a painting that Wynn owns.

Those allegations came to light at a 2018 press conference conducted by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVPD). The Las Vegas Review-Journal would later publish a summary of the press conference with Garcia Cano, the AP reporter, picking up the story from there. Attorneys for Wynn argued that knowing that Kuta never gave birth to to his child, doubt was cast over her rape claims.

Wynn’s suit was initially centered around the notion that Kuta’s complaints taken by Chicago police were false and that the AP purposefully described the contents of the Windy City report in an incomplete fashion. The AP argued Garcia Cano’s article was a good-faith communication related to a matter of concern to the public.

“Second, they asserted that Wynn, as a public figure, could not meet his burden to establish a probability of prevailing on his defamation claim,” according to the Nevada Supreme Court.

What’s Next

The court’s ruling is unlikely to damage the fair reporting precedent, as the decision cites other case law, and that a citizen’s complaint to law enforcement doesn’t constitute an official report.

“Furthermore, AP respondents do not point to, nor did our research reveal, any relevant caselaw where a common law fair report privilege jurisdiction applied the privilege to a citizen’s complaint of an alleged crime absent any further official action by law enforcement.”

The AP told the Review-Journal it’s reviewing the court’s decision.