Judge calls Ergun Caner’s claims “ludicrous” and “outlandish.”
The court has ruled on Ergun Caner’s lawsuit against Jonathan Autry. Ergun Caner had filed a lawsuit against Jason Smathers (this author) and Jonathan Autry for posting video footage of Caner lying to the US Marines. That case was later severed into two and Autry’s case was moved to the Western District of Virginia’s Federal Court. On April 17, 2014, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed Caner’s case against Smathers. Today, May 14, 2014, the Virginia court also ruled against Caner in his claim against Autry.
Judge Moon, in his ruling on the case against Autry, begins with a summary of Ergun Caner’s claims post September 11, 2001 in comparison to the truth. Moon summarizes:
About a year after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Plaintiff and his brother, Emir Caner, wrote what became a popular book about their upbringing as Muslims in Ohio and their conversion to Christianity. Plaintiff became a spokesperson for this background, and was hired by Jerry Fallwell in 2005 to serve as the dean of the Liberty Theological Seminary. Around this time, Plaintiff started making claims in his public speeches that he had grown up as a Muslim in Turkey, steeped and trained in jihad, in a tradition that went back several generations in his father’s family.
While discussing Caner’s inability to state a valid case in his lawsuit, Moon states the the “plaintiff’s unusual conduct gives rise to the impression that he seeks to reveal as little as possible to conceal for as long as possible that his claims lack merit.”
In a recent hearing, David Gibbs, counsel for Caner, labeled Autry a cyber-terrorist and argued that “an anonymous cyber terrorist, in my mind, is not entitled to the same Fair Use protection as [others].” Moon rejected the assertions made by Gibbs saying the claims are ludicrous:
Plaintiff’s counsel made astounding claims during the hearing that discovery would affect the fair use analysis by showing that Defendant was not “qualified” to direct “appropriate criticism” at Plaintiff, unlike “people that are qualified to render those opinions i[n] the market place and exchange of ideas in academia and elsewhere,” and therefore Defendant could not assert the fair use defense. … Plaintiff’s spurious assertion that fair use only applies where a speaker “qualified to render . . . opinions” or to level “appropriate criticism” at a public figure proves ludicrous on its face.
Moon further rejects the idea put forth by Gibbs that First Amendment protections are for a special class of people:
“The First Amendment’s protections, advanced by the fair use defense, have never applied to some bizarre oligarchy of ‘qualified’ speakers.”
Moon also points out that Caner defends actions like Autry’s, but only when it is convenient for Caner and calls his arguments “outlandish:”
Plaintiff himself has extolled the virtues of these protections and warned against the dangers of censorship and “misinformation”: “The one great exponent of America is the freedom to think and rationally believe and reasonably consider for yourself.” … Conveniently, when criticism is directed at him, Plaintiff comes before this Court and argues that it should restrict First Amendment fair use protection to some amorphous group of “qualified” speakers. When pressed at the hearing to provide authority for this counterintuitive proposition, Plaintiff’s counsel fell back on his “belie[fs]” and failed to do so.” … As Defendant’s counsel aptly observed during the hearing, if Plaintiff’s counsel intends to make such outlandish arguments, he should go to the trouble of “typ[ing] out the citations” for any supporting authority. I doubt such authority exists.
Judge Moon concluded by converting the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgement, then finding on behalf of Autry. Summary judgement rather than a dismissal allowed Judge Moon to consider more evidence, so he disposed with the case in that manner. Moon declined to rule on the issue of attorney fees at this time providing instructions to Autry if he chooses to request them in a separate motion.