Sam Kellner, a chasidic sex-abuse whistleblower, has settled his defamation lawsuit against the Jewish Daily Forward.
Kellner’s attorney, Niall MacGiollabui, said his client was “pleased” with the outcome, but couldn’t comment further because both sides agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential.
Samuel Norich, president of the Forward, released a statement in response to a query from The Jewish Week saying, “We’re pleased that under the settlement, the Forward was not required to retract or modify any part of the contested article.”
MacGiollabui said that the Forward has retracted a fallacious tweet and that his client stands by his position regarding the article.
The settlement ends a four-year battle between Kellner and the Forward, which began with an article that Kellner called defamatory and the Forward defended as opinion protected as free speech.
The defamation claims stem from a 2013 article written by Paul Berger, “Sam Kellner’s Tangled Hasidic Tale of Child Sex Abuse, Extortion and Faith,” and a tweet mistakenly referring to Kellner as a convicted extortionist.
The article discussed a series of events that began in 2008 when Kellner brought allegations of his son’s sexual abuse by Baruch Lebovits to the police and worked closely with law enforcement to bring forward additional Lebovits victims. Lebovits was convicted in 2010. In 2011, Kellner was indicted for perjury and extortion related to the Lebovits case, but in 2014 those charges were dropped.
The lawsuit alleges that Berger used an illegally obtained recording that had been doctored by the Lebovits family to falsely claim that Kellner suggested to the family of a child molester that they could “buy off prosecutors” with Yankee tickets and other gifts.
It also claims that Berger falsely accused Kellner of “conspiring to commit extortion.” However, Kellner’s lawyer argued that when one listens to the entire recording, it is clear that the claim is not true.
Lastly, it points to the tweet, which not only mistakenly refers to Kellner as a convicted extortionist but also went uncorrected for six days after the paper was alerted to the error.