UPDATE: July 22, 2020. Gilman filed a notice of appeal. Should Toll prevail upon appeal, Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP laws could mean higher attorney fees awarded to Toll’s attorney.
Brothel owner Lance Gilman’s defamation case against Storey Teller editor Sam Toll was dismissed yesterday by the First Judicial Court of Nevada. The court ordered Gilman to pay attorney’s fees and costs.
“Mr. Gilman is on the record saying he will appeal if he loses, so I know we’re not done,” Toll wrote today on the Storey Teller.
Toll fought complaints of defamation alleged by Gilman under Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statutes. Nevada law protects people from litigation threats used as a way to stifle speech. It’s a common approach by those who feel aggrieved by criticism to shut down critics with expensive litigation, or threats of litigation.
“Gilman argued Toll had a motive and intent to make false statements about Gilman with reckless disregard for their veracity,” wrote Judge James Wilson. “There is no credible evidence that Toll published the resident communications with actual malice. The Court concludes Gilman has failed to show that his defamation claim against Toll has minimal merit.”
Gilman initially tried to argue Toll was not a journalist because he was not a member of the Nevada Press Association. Judge Wilson originally agreed, but that decision in the case was kicked back to him by the Nevada Supreme Court. The state court ordered Wilson to reconsider his ruling under the notion that being an online source is a modern equivalent of a newspaper.
“Judge Wilson allows me to make an application to the court for reimbursement of reasonable attorney’s fees,” Toll said. “Gilman has until June 29th to explain to the court why he should not pay me $10,000 in statutory damages as allowed by Nevada Revised Statute.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.