First Amendment Lawsuit

Family of Marine Killed In Afghanistan Fails To Win Lawsuit Against Alec Baldwin

Actor Alec Baldwin in New York
Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home, as he will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust,” in New York, Jan. 31, 2023. (Reuters/David ‘Dee’ Delgado)

By The Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Alec Baldwin didn’t have to pay anything to resolve a $25 million lawsuit filed by family members of a Marine killed in Afghanistan after the actor chastised them on social media over the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Baldwin’s attorney said.

U.S. Southern District of New York Judge Edgardo Ramos in August dismissed the lawsuit sought by the wife and sisters of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, of Jackson, Wyoming, When the McCollum family didn’t file an amended lawsuit as Ramos invited to do before a September deadline, the judge closed the case in October.

Baldwin paid nothing to resolve the case, his attorney Luke Nikas said Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press.

The case has seen no activity since, according to court documents. Lawyers for both sides, including McCollum family attorney Dennis Postiglione, did not comment further on the case when contacted by email Thursday. Reached by email Wednesday, Postiglione declined to comment and said the McCollum family would not comment.

Rylee McCollum and 12 other Marines were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in the last days of the U.S. war in Afghanistan in 2021. Baldwin sent the family a $5,000 check to help in the aftermath.

The lawsuit, filed initially in Wyoming and then New York, alleged Baldwin exposed the family to a flood of social media hatred in 2022 by claiming on Instagram that Roice McCollum was an “insurrectionist” for attending former President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the insurrection that day.

Roice McCollum protested peacefully and legally, was not among those who stormed the U.S. Capitol, and never was arrested or charged after being interviewed by the FBI, according to the lawsuit.

Even so, she was a “limited public figure” under the law by talking about her brother’s death in the news media and by engaging with Baldwin, a well-known celebrity, on social media, Ramos ruled in dismissing the lawsuit.

To prove her case as a limited public figure, McCollum needed to show that Baldwin acted with malice toward her. She did not, so Baldwin’s comments were protected under his free-speech rights, Ramos ruled.

The lawsuit was filed as Baldwin faced legal peril for the death of a cinematographer on a New Mexico movie set in 2021. Baldwin was pointing a gun when it went off, killing Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Special prosecutors initially dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin but now seek to recharge the actor after presenting new information to a grand jury.