Jimmy Kimmel, ABC Prevail in Court Over Rabbi 'Made to Look Foolish'

In a video segment, Kimmel spliced together a YouTube video of the "Flying Rabbi," who sued, alleging he was presented as a "laughingstock."
Harper Smith/ABC

ABC and late night host Jimmy Kimmel have prevailed over an orthodox Jewish man who claimed his image was used without consent in a Jimmy Kimmel Live! segment that poked fun at basketball superstar LeBron James' 2010 free agency "decision."

On the show, Kimmel made light of TMZ reports that summer that James had met with Rabbi Yishayahu Yosef Pinto for business advice. Kimmel claimed that he himself had met with Rabbi Pinto for advice and showed the audience a video of the exchange.

But Kimmel never actually met Rabbi Pinto. And the video didn't even show Rabbi Pinto. Instead, Kimmel had spliced together YouTube footage of Dovid Sondik, also known as the "Flying Rabbi," who had become a minor celebrity online for being somewhat manic in videos. Here's a look:

Sondik sued, claiming that the defendants had falsely portraying his voice, picture, and likeness as the voice, picture and likeness of Rabbi Pinto. Sondik, who reportedly is not actually ordained as a rabbi, alleged he was made to "look foolish" and presented as a "laughingstock."

In a ruling on Dec. 14, New York Judge David Schmidt tossed the lawsuit on free speech grounds.

"The segment supplied by defendants demonstrates that the clip of plaintiff at issue was used as a part of a comedic (or at least an attempted comedic) or satiric parody of Lebron James' meeting with Rabbi Pinto, itself undoubtedly an event that was newsworthy or of public interest," wrote Schmidt.

Sondik's claim of defamation didn't fare any better.

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"Even though plaintiff is not a public figure, there is no allegation in the complaint or inference that can be drawn from the DVD suggesting that the use of plaintiff's clip was mean-spirited or intended to injure such that its use would be excluded from First Amendment protection," added Schmidt.

Sondik's attorney promises to appeal.

Meanwhile, in other news involving basketball players, unwanted television publicity, and the ongoing battle between publicity rights and the First Amendment, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied NBA star Gilbert Arenas' attempts to block Basketball Wives: Los Angeles.

In August, a California judge dismissed claims that the VH1 reality show featuring former fiancé Laura Govan constituted a misappropriation of Arenas' name and likeness as well as defamation, finding the program made fair use of the woman's connection to celebrity.

On Tuesday, three circuit judges at the 9th Circuit unanimously agreed that the lower court hadn't abused its discretion in denying preliminary injunctive relief.

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner

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