The Nevada Supreme Court was asked Monday to reinstate a defamation lawsuit against The Associated Press and an AP reporter based on a story about accounts to Las Vegas police from two women who alleged sexual misconduct by former casino mogul Steve Wynn.
In oral arguments, a lawyer for Wynn argued that an AP article in February 2018 citing police documents failed to fully describe “fantastical” elements of one woman’s account that would have cast doubt on her claim that Wynn raped her in the 1970s in Chicago and that she gave birth to their daughter in a gas station restroom.
Attorney Chad Bowman, representing AP, argued the published report was fair and included references to both the birth and the child.
“It simply didn’t use the verbatim words from the police report,” he said.
A state court judge dismissed AP from the defamation case in August 2018, finding it reported fairly information from the police complaints.
Later, the same judge, Clark County District Court Judge Ronald Israel, ruled that Halina Kuta defamed Wynn with her claims, which the judge termed “totally fanciful.”
In March, Israel awarded Wynn the nominal damage amount of $1 that the billionaire former head of Wynn Resorts and his attorneys sought from Kuta.
The seven Supreme Court justices did not issue an immediate ruling on Wynn’s bid to revive the AP case.
Wynn, 78, resigned in February 2018 as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts. He has consistently denied sexual misconduct allegations, which were first reported in January 2018 by the Wall Street Journal.
“The question for the court is very simple,” Wynn attorney Todd Bice said during videoconference arguments. “Was the defamation enhanced ... by what the AP omitted in its reporting? The answer to that is absolutely yes.”
“That omission was because the fanciful story about a pink doll being born, or dropping out in a thick water bag, and the mother tearing it ... open with her teeth and blowing in its face would lead people to realize that the child wasn’t real,” Bice told the seven justices, referring to the police report. “If the child isn’t real, the corroboration isn’t real, and it casts the entire rape allegation in a far different light.”
Neither accuser was identified in the AP report. Their names and other identifiers were blacked out in documents obtained by AP under a public records request. The AP typically does not publish names of people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Kuta agreed to be named in later AP news reports. The two accusers’ claims could not have been investigated further at the time because Las Vegas police refused to provide additional details.
Bice also argued that Kuta’s complaint was not an official record that should have been made public because Las Vegas police took no action, citing the years that had passed and the unspecified time and location of the alleged encounter in Chicago.
Bowman, the AP’s lawyer, argued that “taking a police report starts the proceeding” and is sufficient to invoke fair reporting privilege.