CHEYENNE — Lawyers for Alec Baldwin are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of defaming the family of a Wyoming Marine killed in Afghanistan, recent court filings show.
According to a motion for dismissal, Baldwin says he was expressing his constitutionally protected political opinion about the Jan. 6 riots, rather than defaming the Marine’s sister and widow as their complaint alleges. The actor’s lawyer also argues the case does not have standing in Wyoming, since Baldwin has no connection to the state.
Baldwin donated $5,000 to one of Rylee McCollum’s sisters after the 20-year-old Marine from Bondurant was killed in a Kabul airport bombing in August, according to the initial complaint.
In January, when Roice McCollum posted a photo from a Jan. 6, 2021, demonstration in Washington, D.C., Baldwin commented to confi rm she was the one who received his donation.
They exchanged private messages, court filings state, in which Baldwin accused her of being a “January 6th rioter” and said her actions resulted in property destruction and the death of an officer. McCollum told him she was protesting legally and had already met with the FBI.
Baldwin reposted her photo to his own account, which had 2.4 million followers at the time, according to court documents. He called claims of non-violent protests on Jan. 6 were “bulls***” and indicated he would remove the post the following day. The photo, as well as his comment on her original post, have been deleted.
McCollum received hundreds of “hostile, aggressive, hateful” messages from Baldwin’s followers after that, according to the complaint, causing her and the other plaintiff s in the case distress, anxiety and fear.
While McCollum’s counsel argues Baldwin acted maliciously in reposting the photo, alleging he knew it would bring them harassment, the actor’s motion says the act could not be malicious because there were no known factual inaccuracies in his caption.
It also argues Baldwin shouldn’t be held accountable for messages sent by other people.
“Would this case exist if Baldwin weren’t a well-known actor? Would Plaintiff s be asking for $25 million? No, clearly not,” the motion reads. “This is a political dispute masquerading as a lawsuit, motivated further by money. The public square—not this Court—is the proper place to debate Alec Baldwin’s opinion.”
In a response filed this week, lawyers for the McCollums said Baldwin’s comment calling Roice an “insurrectionist” was accusing her of criminal activity and therefore defaming her “by implication.” They also say that Baldwin’s actions were more serious because of his large following.
“As evidenced by the followers’ responses to Baldwin’s publication, the implication in this false statement is that Plaintiffs are rioters, traitors, racists, Nazis, or white supremacists who sought to overthrow the United States democracy,” their response states.
Baldwin’s motion argues “insurrection” is not a criminal charge, and is rather an expression of his opinion of the events of Jan. 6.
“This case is not about whether you’re a Democrat, whether you’re a Republican,” said Luke Nikas, one of Baldwin’s longtime lawyers. “It’s about whether you believe in the first amendment and in the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions and freedom of speech.”