1:31pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Alec Baldwin Beats Slander Claim in Parking Space Fight Lawsuit
Alec Baldwin's talk show comments criticizing the driving of the man on the other side of his now-infamous parking space dispute aren't slander, a New York judge ruled Thursday.
In November 2018, Baldwin and Wojciech Cieszkowski got into a widely publicized dispute over a Manhattan parking spot. It started with Cieszkowski allegedly stealing the space Baldwin's wife had been saving and ended with Baldwin being arrested after the driver told police the actor punched him in the jaw. (Baldwin denies hitting him and maintains that video of the incident corroborates his version of the story.)
The Manhattan DA's Office charged the actor with third-degree attempted assault and second-degree harassment — in January, Baldwin pleaded guilty to the latter and agreed to participate in an anger management program. Afterward, he appeared on The Ellen Show and The Howard Stern Show and discussed the incident.
Cieszkowski then sued for assault, battery and slander per se — the last of which was prompted by Baldwin's talk show comments which included, "I thought he was going to run my wife over with his car when he was stealing my parking spot."
Baldwin in June filed a motion to dismiss the slander claim, arguing that the driver was "trying to turn a minor altercation over a parking spot into a multimillion dollar lottery ticket." On Thursday it was granted.
Judge David Benjamin Cohen doesn't buy Cieszkowski's argument that Baldwin accused him of reckless endangerment. Under the relevant requirements, slander per se claims require that a person be accused of a "serious crime." Citing a 1992 appellate decision in Liberman v Gelstein, Cohen indicates that crimes rising to that level include murder, burglary, larceny, arson, rape and kidnapping.
"Even putting aside the Liberman wording, (and their easy comparison to this matter) that traffic violations do not constitute a serious crime in this slander per se context, crimes of a very serious nature means crimes that would exclude a person from society," writes Cohen.
Further, Cohen finds that the statements aren't actionable because they were both hyperbole and Baldwin's opinion. (Read the full decision below.)
The remaining claims will proceed to discovery.