WASHINGTON (JTA) — A judge is allowing Steve Rosen’s defamation lawsuit against AIPAC to go ahead.
In a decision handed down Oct. 30 and made available on Tuesday, Judge Jeanette Clark of the District of Columbia Superior Court narrowed the scope of Rosen’s suit against his former employer; it rests now on a single statement Patrick Dorton, a contracted spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Commiteee, made to the New York Times on March 3, 2008.
At that time, Dorton alleged that Rosen, AIPAC’s former foreign policy chief, had been fired in March 2005 because he "did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects of its employees."
Rosen was fired seven months after FBI agents raided AIPAC offices in a classified information investigation. Rosen and AIPAC’s Iran analyst, Keith Weissman, were indicted in August 2005 on charges of relaying national defense information; the prosecution dropped the charges in May of this year.
During the pretrial period, motions showed that AIPAC, while initially supportive of Rosen and Weissman, had come under U.S. government pressure to fire them.
The judge agreed with the defendants that earlier statements cited in Rosen’s suit, filed last March, fell outside of the one-year statute of limitations, including several statements Dorton made to the JTA.
Clark also removed from the suit members of the AIPAC board, leaving only AIPAC and Dorton as defendants.
The judge rejected the defendants’ claims that because Rosen was a public figure the required proof of malice was unachievable. The judge noted that Rosen earned a $7,000 bonus five months after the FBI raid and two months before he was fired.
Rosen’s lawyer, David Shapiro, who called AIPAC’s treatment of Rosen "reprehensible," said he was ready to continue now to the discovery stage. "We’re happy with the decision," he said.
Dorton, speaking on behalf of himself and AIPAC, said Clark’s decision "demonstrates that there’s absolutely no case here. We will continue to work toward a complete dismissal."