Steve Wynn Defamation Case Against AP to Go Ahead as Nevada Supreme Court Reinstates Lawsuit

  • Steve Wynn sued AP, its reporter Regina Garcia Cano, and rape accuser Halina Kuta in 2018
  • District court judge then ruled that AP reported information fairly from official police document
  • Supreme Court now says article didn't include important aspects found in police report
  • Lower court will next have to consider other arguments by AP to dismiss lawsuit
  • Steve Wynn resigned as Wynn Resorts CEO and chair amid sexual misconduct allegations
statue of Lady Justice
The Nevada Supreme Court has reinstated a defamation lawsuit Steven Wynn had filed against the AP after allegations of his sexual misconduct emerged. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

High court issues new ruling

The Nevada Supreme Court has reinstated the defamation lawsuit from former casino mogul Steve Wynn against The Associated Press (AP).

The lawsuit relates to a February 2018 story the AP carried about sexual misconduct allegations two women made against Wynn to Las Vegas police. Steve Wynn sued the AP, AP reporter Regina Garcia Cano, and rape accuser Halina Kuta for defamation in 2018. He accused the news company of publishing false statements with actual malice.

Nevada high court has ordered Clark County District Court Judge Ronald Israel to reconsider his decision

Following a successful appeal by Wynn, the Nevada high court has ordered Clark County District Court Judge Ronald Israel to reconsider his decision in August 2018 to dismiss the AP and its reporter from the defamation suit.

District court judge had deemed report fair

Two years ago, Judge Israel ruled that the AP had reported the information fairly from an official police document, despite no investigation ever taking place into Kuta’s allegations. Las Vegas police had said the alleged events took place too long ago to investigate.

The alleged victim reported that Wynn sexually assaulted her in the 1970s in Chicago, and that she subsequently gave birth to their daughter in the restroom of a gas station. Later, in March 2020, the district court judge for the defamation case ruled that Kuta’s police report was false and defamatory. He labeled her allegations “totally fanciful” and awarded damages of $1 to Wynn.

According to the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, the article in question did not completely describe aspects of Kuta’s police statement that would cast doubt on her allegations. The ruling concluded that the lower court should not have dismissed the AP from the defamation case on fair report privilege grounds. It stated that the article outlined a person’s allegations that were not subject to any further official action.

An ongoing case

The Clark County District Court will now have to consider the other arguments for dismissal from the AP through the Nevada anti-SLAPP statute. The aim of the anti-SLAPP statute is to stop the use of lawsuits to block freedom of speech.

Wynn “looks forward to vindicating his reputation”

The plaintiff’s attorney Tamara Beatty Peterson said her client was happy with the court’s revival of the case. She added that Wynn “looks forward to vindicating his reputation.”

The AP believes it had published the original article in good faith, and that the story was an issue of public concern at the time. Global director of media relations Lauren Easton said the news service is reviewing the decision by the court. 

A fall from grace

Wynn Resorts founder Steve Wynn led the development of many major casino projects in Las Vegas. In February 2018, he stepped down as the chief executive and chair of the company amid numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.

His resignation came after a Wall Street Journal report on January 26 that year outlined an alleged pattern of sexual assault by Wynn, whereby he would pressure female employees into sexual acts. Wynn has always denied the allegations. 

Because of the company’s failure to properly address the accusations against its then CEO, Wynn Resorts got hit with a record $20m fine from the Nevada Gaming Commission in February 2019. The company also received a $35m penalty from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for concealing the allegations against Steve Wynn during the bidding process for a casino license in the state.