Steve Hindi announced this month that he was dropping his lawsuit against Utah state Rep. Paul Ray because it would be too expensive to proceed. Ray had state attorneys defending him, and Hindi apparently did not think he could match those resources.

The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Hindi as saying,

As badly as I want to see this guy in court, as badly as I want to see him put his money where his mouth is, he's going to put taxpayers' money where his mouth is . . . We're not going to play that game.

The lawsuit was filed after Ray sent a letter to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee asking that committee to reject animal rights demands to stop a rodeo held as part of the Winter Olympic's cultural events. In that letter, Ray wrote, "We cannot allow terrorist groups such as SHARK and PETA to frighten us with their threats of violence."

Hindi took umbrage to Ray's repeated claims that his group had made threats of violence and supported terrorism and filed suit.

Ray, for his part, seems to be choosing his words more carefully these days and told the Tribune, "I'm not going to get in a name-calling fight with them. I don't want to rehash all this."

Hindi's lawyer, Brian Barnard, was apparently disappointed at the decision to withdraw the lawsuit thinking he had a good defamation case.

Realistically, though, the odds of Hindi prevailing in court were slim to none. Hindi may have been right that SHARK is not a terrorist group and does not support terrorism, but in court he would have had the burden of proving that a) Ray knew this, and b) despite that knowledge, Ray called SHARK a terrorist group anyway (Hindi an SHARK are clearly public persons and, as such, would have had to prove actual malice to prevail).

It was very clear from his statements, however, that Ray had only passing knowledge of the animal rights movement and would almost certainly have relied on a defense that he believed what he was saying at the time was true and accurate.

Winning a defamation case in the United States is extremely difficult, and Ray would have almost certainly prevailed had the lawsuit went forward.


Animal rights activist drops defamation suit against lawmaker. Dan Harrie, The Salt Lake Tribune, March 14, 2002.

Animal Rights Activists

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