Thomas v US, CA 87-1820
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
WILLIAM THOMAS, et. al., )
v. ) Civil Action No. 87-1280
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, )
Pro se plaintiffs William Thomas, Ellen Thomas, Concepcion
Picciotto, and Robert Dorrough, individually and as organized,
in various combinations, into the "White House Antinuclear
Vigil" and the "Peace Park Anti-Nuclear Vigil,"
sue numerous official and private individuals and organizations
for injuries allegedly arising out of plaintiffs' communicative
activities in Lafayette Park.
On July 7, 1987, plaintiffs filed a complaint accompanied
by a Motion for Preliminary Injunction and a Temporary Restraining
Order naming as defendants inter alia, President Ronald Reagan;
the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, News World Communications, doing
business as The Washington Times, along with several of
the newspaper's principals and employees; Jay Young, a political
activist; the Young Americans for Freedom ("YAF"); Donald
Hodel, in his official
capacity as Secretary of the Interior; two assistant solicitors
in the Department of the Interior; two particular United States
Park Police officers; and "Numerous Identifiable Agents of
the United States Secret Service and the United States Park Police."
Plaintiffs seek damages from all defendants totalling more than
$150 million. In addition, plaintiffs pray for declaratory and
injunctive relief against the enforcement of regulations presently
codified at 36 C.F.R. § 7.96. Complaint at 29.
Two separate dispositive motions have been filed, News
World Communications and defendants related to that organization
(hereinafter "Times defendants") have filed motion
to dismiss. The federal defendants have filed a motion to dismiss
or for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed in this Memorandum,
an accompanying Order grants the Times defendants' motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Plaintiffs have attempted to maintain a continuous anti- nuclear
demonstration in front of the White House, along Pennsylvania
Avenue, and in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C. One of the individual
plaintiffs commenced his vigil in 1981; others joined periodically
throughout the following six years.
Accompanied by signs bearing political and religious messages,
and supplied with literature expressing and
advocating various ideological views, plaintiffs have sought
Complaint at ¶ 23. Plaintiffs summarize their message
as one of "'Peace through Love,'" and "'love your
enemies.'" Id. at ¶ 25. Those principles find practical
application, plaintiffs maintain, in their conviction that "'unless
humanity eliminates nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons will eliminate
Plaintiffs' continuous vigil has been interrupted numerous
times over the years by warnings, arrests, and convictions for
violations of Department of the Interior regulations restricting
the time, place, and manner of First Amendment activity near the
White House and on federal park lands, such as Lafayette Park.
In particular, the plaintiffs have run a foul of prohibitions
on "camping" in the Park. codified at 36 C.F.R, §
7.96(1)(1) (1987), That rule defines the proscribed activity,
in part, as
36 C.F.R. § 7.96(1) (1) (1987). In addition, plaintiffs
have been cited for violations; of Lafayette Park restrictions
governing the size and the structure of signs, as well as
sign attendance requirements, which regulations are codified
at C.F.R. § 7.96(g)(5)(x)(B) (1987).
In 1984, plaintiffs filed suit against Department of the
Interior officials challenging the constitutionality of these
regulations as violative of plaintiffs' First Amendment rights
of speech and association. In July of 1987, plaintiffs filed a
second action, re-alleging many of their earlier challenges to
the camping regulations and adding new challenges to a three-foot
attendance sign regulation that had been promulgated since the
filing of the original suit. The 1987 complaint, however, named
as defendants not only federal officials and Park Police officers,
as had the original complaint. The 1987 complaint also alleged
that constitutional and common law torts had been committed against
plaintiffs by The Washington Times its parent company,
News World Communications, its editor-in-chief, and various employees
and associates of the newspaper, alone and in conspiracy with
each other and the federal defendants.
The federal defendants sued in the 1984 action have filed
a motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, far summary judgment
on that complaint. The federal defendants in the 1987 case have
also filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. Three
defendants affiliated with The Washington Times have filed
a joint motion to dismiss the 1987 complaint as against them.
"Defendants News World Communications, DeBorchgrave and Pak's
Memorandum in support
of Motion to Dismiss (hereinafter "Times" Motion
to Dismiss"), Defendant Jay Young has filed an answer, which
denies all allegations of wrongdoing and, like the notion filed
on behalf of all other Times defendants, argues that plaintiffs
have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
This Memorandum and accompanying Order address only those
claims made by plaintiffs against the nonfederal defendants. They
dispose only of the Times defendants' motion to dismiss
the 1987 complaint. The federal defendants' dispositive motions
in both the 1984 and the 1987 actions remain under advisement.
For the purposes of the present Memorandum, defendant Young's
answer shall be treated as incorporating the other Times
defendants' motion to dismiss; the resolution of the Times motion
shall apply as well to all claims against defendant Young. Defendant
Sun Myung Moon has filed neither an answer nor any other responsive
pleading, Similarly, no response has been received from defendant
Masty nor from defendant organization YAF. ' Accordingly, the
1987 complaint's allegations against these two parties also remain
The 1987 complaint claims that defendants have acted, individually
and in conspiracy with one another, to infringe plaintiff's First
Amendment rights. Specifically, plaintiffs
allege that defendants "utilize[d] regulatory schemes,
disinformation, psychological violence, [and] public defamation
of character" in an effort to interfere with the twenty-four
hour demonstration conducted by plaintiffs in Lafayette Park,
Complaint at ¶ 20.
Plaintiffs contend that The Washington Times, through
its editors, reporters, and commentators, has engaged in a campaign
to discredit plaintiffs, their political convictions, and their
chosen mode of First Amendment expression. To this end, plaintiffs
allege, the Times has "repeatedly" published
articles and cartoons that portray a distorted picture of plaintiffs'
presence, words and ideas for the purpose of furthering defendants'
collective intent to maliciously, falsely, recklessly, cause public
defamation. [t]hereby irresponsibly plant[ing] seeds of untruth
and prejudic[ing] readers' minds against plaintiffs. Complaint
at ¶ 35.
Plaintiffs refer, in particular, to a series of what they
describe as "editorials," accompanied on at least one
occasion by a satirical cartoon making oblique reference to two
of the plaintiffs, that appeared in the Times in February and
March of 1983, See id, at ¶ 45, 47·49. These columns,
entitled "Defacing the White House," "Defacing
the White House: II," and "Defacing the White House:
Update," refer both obliquely and explicitly to several of
the plaintiffs and criticize "the garbage that passes for
protest signs left night and day" on the White
House sidewalk and in Lafayette Park. See id. at Exhibit 13.
These editorials refer to various plaintiffs as "bums"
or "pitiable lunatics." See, id. at Exhibit 15, The
writers denigrate plaintiffs' communicative placards as "gibberish"
and "trash." See, e.g., id. Plaintiffs characterize
these comments as false and defamatory statements of fact. 
The complaint alleges that the Times' "dissemination
of malicious disinformation" has had at least three injurious
consequences. First, the newspaper's publications regarding plaintiffs
purportedly represent an "intentional infliction of emotional
distress." Id, at § 78; see id. at § 93 ("Count
Two"). Second, plaintiffs argue, the publications, taken
together, reflect a "smear campaign" intended to injure
plaintiffs' reputations and the pursuit of their lives' work and
religious practice." Id. at § 79; see id. at §
93 ("Count Three"), 94, 96, Third, plaintiffs maintain
that, through such defamatory publications, the Times conspired
with the federal defendants, which conspiracy was intended to
and did result in the promulgation of federal regulations that
interfere with plaintiffs' exercise of their First Amendment rights
of expression and association. See id. at ¶¶ 20, 95.
[1 The complaint makes repeated reference
to defamation and Liable. See. e.a., Complaint at ¶¶
51, 72, 92 C 104, Yet in another pleading, plaintiffs appear to
disavow any libel claim. See Reply to Defendants News World Communications,
DeBorchgrave and Pak's Motion to Dismiss (hereinafter "Plaintiffs'
Opposition") at 19-15. Construing the complaint most favorably
to plaintiffs,however, it is assumed for purposes of this memorandum
that they do allege libel by The Washington Times.]
In addition to the defamation and emotional distress claims,
the complaint alleges that in July of 1985 several of the Times
defendants, joined by defendant Masty and defendant organization
YAF, were involved in a physical assault against plaintiffs and
their property in Lafayette Park. See id. at ¶¶ 58-61.
Plaintiffs maintain, further, that the Times itself organized
and implemented the alleged raid in an effort to generate a news
story for publication. See id. at ¶ 59, 61. The raid itself
is claimed to have been carried out for the "purpose of removing
plaintiffs' signs from the park and, [sic] striking fear into
the hearts of plaintiffs so that plaintiffs might abandon"
their demonstration. Id. at ¶ 58.
The complaint alleges that the "raid" occurred
at 4:00 A.M. on July 4, 1985. plaintiffs claim that they were
attacked in the park by a group of "abusive and intimidating"
persons who destroyed ar damaged several of plaintiffs' signs.
id. at ¶ 60. This group, purportedly, also attempted to remove
several signs from the park using a van driven by defendant Young.
Members of the group allegedly erected signs of their own where
plaintiffs' had stood. Id.
Not only did the alleged assault result in damage to property
and injury to a person, plaintiffs claim, but the "raid"
generated further defamation of plaintiffs in Times publications,
Plaintiffs contend that a news story about the
incident, published on July 5, 1985 under the byline of defendant
Masty, contained an "intentionally misleading" account
of the event, which article, plaintiffs claim, erroneously characterized
the YAF as "Freedom Fighters" while labelling plaintiffs
as "weirdos" and "screwballs." Id, at ¶
61. Maintaining that none of their number is or has ever been
a member of any Communist or Socialist party, nor "even 'the
screwball left,'" plaintiffs conclude that the Times
defendants took advantage of the assault further to defame plaintiffs,
Id. at ¶ 62.
CA 87-1280 Intro