Attorneys representing Jerry Falwell Jr. asked a Virginia judge last week to dismiss Liberty University’s lawsuit, alleging that the school’s myriad misconduct claims against its former leader are nothing more than an attempt to publicly shame him for his wife’s extramarital affair and the emergence of a photograph of him with his pants unzipped.
Liberty in April filed a 74-page complaint in Virginia’s Circuit Court for the City of Lynchburg alleging three counts against Falwell, Jr.: (1) breach of contract/conversion; (2) breach of fiduciary duty; and (3) statutory conspiracy. Falwell responded last week, arguing that Liberty’s complaint, “goes to great lengths to defame and diminish Falwell’s reputation” while failing to provide any support for its legal claims.
“It appears that Liberty’s motivation in filing the Complaint was to air inflammatory and embarrassing allegations about Falwell (or, more accurately, his wife) instead of actually trying to state a cause of action,” the 13-page motion to dismiss stated. “In support of its three claims, Liberty presents a novella complete with titles and pictures detailing the salacious personal details of an affair Rebecca Falwell (Becki) had with Giancarlo Granda and the extortion attempts on Becki and Falwell. The rehashing of these events and protected defamation of Falwell through litigation serves one mission — ruining Falwell’s reputation through mischaracterization of events and public shaming through out-of-context pictures filed in a public complaint.”
Allegations made in Liberty’s lawsuit are not subject to defamation claims from Falwell due to litigation privilege.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, the factual assertions in Liberty’s complaint were primarily sourced from an August 2020 Washington Examiner report and a lawsuit filed by Falwell Jr. against the university last year. The Examiner report contained an exclusive statement from Falwell Jr. which “divulged the saga of a ‘former family friend’ who had an affair with Becki Falwell, the wife of Falwell Jr., and ‘was threatening to expose it.’”
Falwell and Liberty severed ties that same month after a Reuters report exposed more details from the affair between Granda and Becki Falwell.
Liberty’s lawsuit claimed Falwell knowingly withheld such damaging information when he signed a lucrative 2019 employment agreement that provided him a hefty windfall in the form of a $2.5 million severance package which the suit referred to as “personal protection” against the news inevitably coming to light. The university sought to have Falwell pay an award of $10 million in damages, an additional $10 million in compensatory damages “trebled as provided by statute,” and $350,000 in punitive damages.
Falwell’s filing asserted that he owed no fiduciary duty to Liberty by handling his family’s private matters “that only indirectly clashed with Liberty’s interest, including negotiating the 2019 Employment Agreement.”
“Falwell owed no duty to tell Liberty of private matters involving Becki,” the motion stated. “Furthermore, the actions and duties Liberty claims are unsupported and do not rise to a cognizable claim. In sum, Liberty can point to no breach that implicated a duty Falwell owed to Liberty.”
Read the full filing below.
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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