Nevada high court revives Wynn defamation case against AP

Case involves rape allegations against casino mogul dating back to the 1970s

Associated Press
October 30, 2020 - 5:00 am
Steve Wynn

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated a defamation lawsuit against The Associated Press based on a story about accounts to Las Vegas police from two women who alleged sexual misconduct by former casino mogul Steve Wynn.

The court revived Wynn’s claim that a February 2018 AP article, which cited police documents, failed to fully describe elements of a woman’s account that would have cast doubt on her allegation Wynn raped her in the 1970s in Chicago and that she gave birth to their daughter in a gas station restroom.

The state high court instructed Clark County District Court Judge Ronald Israel to reconsider his August 2018 decision to dismiss AP from the case on grounds that AP fairly reported information based on an official document, a police complaint by Halina Kuta, even though authorities never investigated the allegation.

Las Vegas police at the time said too much time had elapsed since Kuta said the events occurred in 1973 or 1974. 

“The AP article republished allegations ... which were not investigated, evaluated or pursued by law enforcement in any way,” Supreme Court Justice Elissa Cadish wrote for the unanimous court. 

The ruling said the lower court erred in dismissing AP from the case on fair report privilege grounds. The trial court must now consider AP’s other arguments for dismissing the case under the Nevada anti-SLAPP statute, which is designed to prevent strategic lawsuits against public participation.

The trial court judge later ruled that Kuta defamed Wynn with her claims, which the judge termed “totally fanciful.” Wynn was awarded a nominal damage amount of $1.

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.

Wynn attorney Tamara Beatty Peterson said Wynn was pleased with Thursday’s ruling and “looks forward to vindicating his reputation.” 

Lauren Easton, the AP’s global director of media relations, said the AP was reviewing the court’s decision.

Wynn lawyer Todd Bice told the state Supreme Court during oral arguments in July that AP omitted relevant elements of Kuta’s complaint that would lead people to doubt the veracity of her rape allegation.

Neither accuser was identified in the AP report. Their names and other identifying information were blacked out in documents obtained by AP under a public records request and Las Vegas police refused to provide additional details. 

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.