US appeals court finds for Donald Trump Jr. in defamation suit by ex-coal CEO Don Blankenship

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court rejected a bid Monday from former coal executive Don Blankenship, who argued that Donald Trump Jr. defamed him by calling him a “felon.”

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, left in place a lower court’s ruling in West Virginia against Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy. He served a year in prison on a misdemeanor charge after he was found guilty of conspiring to violate safety standards at a West Virginia mine before an explosion in 2010 that killed 29 men.

Blankenship sued the son of then-President Donald Trump after Donald Trump Jr. posted the comment in May 2018 on social media. The appeals court found that “the record fails to show that Trump, Jr. published his statement with actual malice.”

The appeals court previously affirmed a determination by a district court that CNN, Fox News and 14 other media outlets sued by Blankenship did not act with “actual malice” amid coverage of his unsuccessful 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, even if, it said, they failed to meet journalistic standards. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Blankenship’s appeal in that case.

The high court also previously turned away Blankenship’s appeal of his misdemeanor conviction.

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