12:39pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Shia LaBeouf Says Calling Bartender "Racist" Was Protected Speech
Shia LaBeouf's lawyer is asking a California judge to throw out an assault and defamation lawsuit filed by a bartender who says the actor called him a "fucking racist" after he refused to serve him more alcohol.
LaBeouf's attorney, Brian G. Wolf, argues David Bernstein can't sue his client because the allegations arise out of his exercise of protected free speech.
The complaint is "not only completely frivolous in nature, but also provides a compelling example of the type of claims which California's anti-SLAPP statute was enacted to prevent," writes Wolf in Wednesday's filing. Bernstein, he argues, seeks to hold LaBeouf liable because his "celebrity status turned what would have otherwise been a wholly private encounter … into a matter of significant public interest."
Wolf also argues LaBeouf's statements were clearly opinion and therefore aren't defamatory, they don't give rise to an emotional distress claim and the conduct wasn't assault.
"This action amounts to little more than attempted civil extortion," writes Wolf, adding that it's "widely recognized that 'name-calling,' no matter how obnoxious or vulgar, is not defamatory."
He also argues that Bernstein's claims for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from LaBeouf pounding his fist on the bar are also "communicative and in furtherance of the very same protected free speech."
"While Plaintiff's feelings may have been hurt by being called a racist by Defendant, '[t]here is no occasion for the law to intervene where someone's feelings are hurt,'" writes Wolf. "Indeed, Plaintiff's own admitted conduct in threatening to hit Defendant with a Grey Goose bottle was more outrageous than anything that Defendant is alleged to have done."
Read the full special motion to strike below.