Judge sanctions Fox for withholding evidence in Dominion $1.6 billion defamation case

Judge sanctions Fox for withholding evidence in Dominion $1.6 billion defamation case

April 12 (Reuters) – The judge overseeing the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems on Wednesday sanctioned Fox News, handing the ballot-machine company a fresh chance to gather evidence after Fox withheld records until the eve of trial, a person present during Wednesday’s court hearing said.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said he would also very likely tap an outside investigator to probe Fox’s late disclosure of the evidence and take whatever steps necessary to remedy the situation, which he described as troubling, the person said.

It was not immediately clear whether Dominion would seek new depositions.

Fox said in a statement that it “produced the supplemental information” to Dominion “when we first learned it.”

The evidence at issue included recordings a former Fox employee made of Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, saying before pre-taped Fox appearances that he did not have any evidence to back up the false allegations of election rigging by Dominion in the 2020 race that are at the heart of the lawsuit.

Jury selection is set to begin in the case on Thursday. Dominion sued Fox News and parent company Fox Corp (FOXA.O) in 2021. It accused them of ruining its reputation by airing false claims by Trump and his lawyers that the Denver-based company’s voting machines were used to rig the outcome of the election against him and in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.

In sanctioning Fox, Davis ruled that if Dominion now needs to conduct additional depositions or redo any already done, that “Fox will do everything they can to make the person available, and it will be at a cost to Fox,” according to a report in the New York Times.

The judge took his action based on details from a new filing in a separate lawsuit against Fox by Abby Grossberg, a former producer at the network.

Grossberg said in her latest filing that she has tapes of former Trump lawyers, including Giuliani, conceding they lacked evidence for their claims. The recordings and transcripts of them were widely circulated and discussed within Fox, Grossberg added.

Davis said in a pretrial conference on Tuesday that Fox News had a “credibility problem” after it disclosed for the first time in nearly two years of litigation that Rupert Murdoch was an officer of the company. As a Fox News officer, Murdoch would likely have been subject to more probing discovery by Dominion.

A Fox spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday that Murdoch has been listed as executive chairman of Fox News in Securities and Exchange Commission filings since 2019, and that a Dominion attorney referenced that filing during Murdoch’s deposition.

He is expected to be called to the witness stand as soon as Monday, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Fox has argued that its coverage of the vote-rigging claims was inherently newsworthy and protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

(This story has been refiled to add the dropped word ‘billion’ in the headline)

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham, Tim Ahmann, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis

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