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Netflix loses bid to dismiss ‘Inventing Anna’ defamation lawsuit

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A former friend of con artist Anna Sorokin was granted permission on Tuesday to file a defamation suit against Netflix about the Shonda Rhimes miniseries, “Inventing Anna.”

Netflix had argued that Rhimes and other series creators had “literary license” to give their interpretation of the events. In rejecting that argument, Chief Justice Colm F. Connolly reasoned that at least some of the show’s characterizations might cross the line into defamation.

The plaintiff, Rachel DeLoache Williams, allegedly abandoned Sorokin in Morocco and eventually turned her over to authorities. Williams has claims that 16 separate sets of statements in the series falsely describe her as “snobbish”, “unethical” and “greedy”.

Sorokin posed as a German heiress named Anna Delvey. She was ultimately convicted of defrauding banks and other businesses to the tune of approximately $200,000 and served nearly four years in custody. She is now under house arrest as she fights deportation.

Williams, a former Vanity Fair employee, wrote an article and then a book about her experience with Sorokin, whom she accuses of defrauding her out of $62,000.

In its defense, Netflix has argued that Rhimes’ interpretation of the high-profile case was protected by the First Amendment.

“Indeed, to allow constitutionally protected artistic expression to flourish, content creators like Netflix
“Some breathing room must be allowed to interpret the actions and decisions of those involved in a public controversy like the Sorokin trial,” the company’s lawyers, led by Thomas E. Hanson, Jr., argued.

Hanson argued that Williams’ characterization was an opinion — and therefore protected from defamation suits. Hanson also argued that the description was not false and was in fact supported by Williams’ own account. In filing the lawsuit, Hanson alleged that Williams was simply trying to “stifle expression that she doesn’t like” in favor of her preferred version of events.

Williams argued that the series was too sympathetic to Sorokin and distorted reality by transforming Sorokin’s character from a villain into an anti-hero, who the audience is asked to support on some level.

“Despite being a conman, the series presents as admirable Sorokin’s brazen willingness to lie, cheat and steal to get around supposedly unfair obstacles rooted in bureaucracy, ageism and sexism,” a- she declared. States.

In the process, the suit alleges, Williams’ character was transformed from victim to foil. According to the complaint, the show portrayed Williams as a parasite and fake friend, who only hung out with Sorokin because she would foot the bill.

In his decision, Connolly did not consider the 16 sets of allegedly defamatory statements. But he analyzed two, concerning the alleged abandonment in Morocco. In the series, Sorokin is seen drinking and depressed, and begs Williams not to leave.

Williams argued that Sorokin knew all along that she would leave the trip early, and the idea that Sorokin was distraught was a fabrication. The judge concluded that the difference is a question of fact and not of opinion.

“As Williams claims, the statements indicate that Williams ‘abandoned Sorokin while Sorokin was alone, depressed and struggling in Morocco,'” the judge wrote. “And that Sorokin was in a troubled state and that Williams left her at that time can be proven true or false.”

The plaintiff’s attorney has already served a series of subpoenas in the case, including against Sorokin and Katie Lowes, the actor who plays Williams.

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