Roy Moore, a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, lost a close special election for the U.S. Senate to Democrat Doug Jones in 2017, after sexual-misconduct allegations against him emerged. Some of those allegations were exaggerated, and the exaggerations damaged his reputation. Now, a jury has awarded him $8.2 million in damages against the liberal Senate Majority PAC, which dramatically inflated the bad things Moore had done.
A U.S. District Judge refused to dismiss Moore’s lawsuit in a detailed opinion on June 2. Press accounts did say that (1) Moore “had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls” and that (2) he had told a 14-year-old girl at the mall “she looked pretty.” But he didn’t solicit sex from the 14-year-old girl. The liberal Senate Majority PAC juxtaposed the two quotes discussed earlier in this paragraph, in a way that falsely implied Moore solicited sex from a 14-year-old girl:
- “Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden Mall … for soliciting sex from young girls.” –New American Journal, 11/12/2017
- “One he approached ‘was 14 and working as Santa’s helper.’ ” –AL.com, 11/13/2017
In June, Judge Corey Maze refused to grant the liberal PAC’s motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the lawsuit against it. He determined that
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Moore, … telling viewers that Moore was banned from the mall for soliciting sex from a 14-year-old Santa’s Helper is more stinging than telling viewers that Moore complimented a 14-year-old girl on her appearance or telling them more generally that Moore was banned from the mall for soliciting young girls. The jury must decide whether the substance or sting of the juxtaposed ad was justified.
The jury seems to have agreed with Moore that the juxtaposition was unjustified, issuing a verdict in favor of Roy Moore after being instructed by the judge based on the above legal determination. The 14-year-old girl had “told the Washington Post that when she was 14 and working as Santa’s Helper, ‘Moore told her that she looked pretty’ then when she was 16, ‘he began asking her out on dates in the presence of her mother at the photo both.'” That’s not good, but there is a big difference between a 30-year-old’s asking out a 16-year-old—which most voters would disapprove of, but remains legal in most states, including Alabama, legal even if Moore’s motive was sex—and a 30-year-old man’s soliciting sex from 14-year-old, which was a felony then, just as it is now.