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Home High profile A court found that lawyer Lin Wood, who supports Trump, was responsible for harming the reputation of his former law partners by falsely accusing them of 'criminal extortion'

A court found that lawyer Lin Wood, who supports Trump, was responsible for harming the reputation of his former law partners by falsely accusing them of 'criminal extortion'

“Significantly, Defendant does not even attempt to prove that his accusations were true,” Northern District of Georgia Judge Michael J. Brown writes.

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L. Lin Wood

FILE — In this Dec. 2, 2020 file photo, Attorney Lin Wood, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, gestures while speaking during a rally in Alpharetta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Pro-Donald Trump defamation attorney L. Lin Wood was found responsible for harming the reputation of his former law partners by a federal court on Tuesday.

Attorneys Nicole Wade, Jonathan Grunberg, and Taylor Wilson have been feuding with Wood since February 2020 over the terms of their departure from his law firm. After a series of failed agreements and legal threats over how much — and when — the trio would be paid, Wood accused his former partners of extortion on the Telegram app.

“[T]he question is whether the accusations were false and defamatory,” Northern District of Georgia Judge Michael J. Brown writes. “Plaintiffs say they were as a matter of law. The Court agrees.”

The first failed agreement over fee-splitting for the business breakup concerned only six cases: three cases that had yet to be settled and three settled but not yet paid-out cases. In each case, the plaintiffs would have been paid between 50% and 80% of the forthcoming fees.

“Just days after the parties reached this agreement, Defendant told Plaintiffs he would not comply with it — even though it was his idea — because he believed the parties had other issues that required resolution,” the court notes. “This led to a second agreement.”

Notably, the March 2020 agreement also included a non-disparagement clause, which prohibited Wood from saying negative things about his former law partners. That agreement fell apart by July 2020.

“On August 25, 2020, Plaintiffs told Defendant they would sue him for breach of contract and fraud if he did not pay what they demanded,” the court explains. “Defendant asked Plaintiffs to hold off on filing suit so they could discuss settlement. To accommodate that request, and with the agreement of both sides, Plaintiffs sent Defendant a copy of their draft complaint and confirmed they would not file suit before August 27, 2020.”

But the day before that deadline was the day the accusations began, the court notes.

On Aug. 26, 2020, Wood began contacting his former partners’ clients and co-counsel and said they were “extortionists” who were threatening to sue him to “extort” money from him. Later that same day, already wise to the extortion allegations, the three lawyers sent Wood a demand letter for $1.25 million — as a means of settling all of their extant claims over the unpaid fees — along with violating the non-disparagement agreement, attorneys’ fees, and defamation.

After another deadline lapsed, Wood’s former partners sued him in state court for breach of contract.

Then came the online defamation campaign.

“During a five-week period the following year, Defendant repeatedly accused Plaintiffs of criminal extortion in a series of messages he posted on a social media platform called Telegram,” the federal court’s opinion reads. “Hundreds of thousands of people viewed Defendant’s messages.”

In March 2022, Wood’s former colleagues took legal action against him for making false statements that damaged their reputation in federal court. As the legal process continued, Wood was found guilty of disrespecting the court and was given a penalty of $5,000.

After both parties submitted requests for the court to make a decision without a trial, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff regarding the false statement claims.

“Significantly, Defendant does not even attempt to prove that his accusations were true,” the statement states. “In fact, he acknowledges that the Plaintiffs did not commit ‘the crime of extortion.’ However, he argues that his extortion claims were still not untrue because they contained ‘casual, metaphorical, or exaggerated language’ that no reasonable person could consider as a genuine accusation of criminal behavior. The Court disagrees.”

The decision mentions several instances of how Wood damaged the reputation of his former colleagues — and why it is evident that he meant what he said.

From the statement, in full (emphasis in original):

Defendant’s posts included a slew of assertions that preclude any inference of non-literalness, including that Plaintiffs engaged in “criminal extortion,” “committed the crime of attempted extortion,” and were “guilty of the crime”; “[t]he law does not sanction lawyers’ engaging in such conduct”; “other lawyers … agree”; Defendant was “considering whether to pursue criminal actions against Plaintiffs”; Plaintiffs were “extortionist lawyers who should be disbarred”; and “[t]he public should file bar complaints against them.” Defendant made some of these statements in a discovery response that he posted on Telegram, further bolstering the impression he meant them. He also told readers his discovery response was “correct and truthful” because, “[a]s a trial lawyer with 43 years experience,” he knew it had to be.

The lawyer, well-known for his work representing JonBenét Ramsey’s parents and wrongly accused Richard Jewell, previously referred to his former partners’ claims as “classic baseless legal action” and stated that his “evidence-based opinions are protected speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Law&Crime reached out to Wood for a comment on the court’s decision, but there was no immediate response at the time of publishing.



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