A federal judge Thursday threw out a libel and defamation lawsuit filed against filmmaker Michael Moore by the brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul D. Borman ruled that statements Moore made about James Nichols in the 2002 "Bowling for Columbine" documentary were "factual and substantially true."
James Nichols claimed in the lawsuit that the statements could be misinterpreted by viewers to inaccurately link him to the bombing. He also claimed the film invaded his privacy and inflicted emotional distress.
Borman rejected the claims in a 25-page ruling granting Moore's request for summary judgment — a ruling without going to trial. Moore's lawyer Herschel P. Fink called the decision a "home run."
"The thing that is most pleasing to Mr. Moore is that the judge agreed with our argument that ... the statements were not false and that they were accurately reported," Fink said.
A message seeking comment left with Nichols' lawyer wasn't immediately returned.
Borman said Nichols, a Sanilac County farmer, is considered a public figure for the purposes of the lawsuit, because he "voluntarily injected himself into the public controversy surrounding the bombing" by such steps as granting interviews and helping write a book.
Terry Nichols is serving two life sentences without parole for his role in the April 1995 bombing that killed 168 people. Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 for masterminding the attack.
James Nichols' farm was raided two days after the bombing, after his brother and McVeigh were identified as suspects. James Nichols was arrested that day and held for 32 days, then released for lack of evidence. Charges against him were later dropped.
McVeigh had listed James Nichols' home as his address on some forms and said when he was arrested that Nichols was his next of kin.
Among statements in the film that James Nichols took issue with were those alleging that federal prosecutors formally linked the Nichols brothers to McVeigh, that the brothers made "practice bombs" before Oklahoma City, that both were arrested in connection to the bombing and that they both were charged with conspiring to make and possess small bombs. Also at issue was a statement that the feds "didn't have the goods on James," so charges were dropped.
Moore, an outspoken liberal activist, is known for films such as "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Roger and Me." "Bowling for Columbine," a scathing look at the gun culture in America, won the Oscar for best documentary of 2002.