Actress Jennifer Lawrence’s statement calling for action against the police who shot and killed Breonna Taylor was “false and defamatory,” according to the man hoping to replace Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie in Congress. TV personality Kim Kardashian and pop superstar Beyoncé were in the same boat. And as for award-winning rapper Common?
“I am not quite sure who this fellow is,” Todd McMurtry wrote over the weekend on Twitter, “but he is defaming the Louisville police officers who lawfully executed a warrant and broke no laws.”
Taylor, a 26-year-old ER technician, was in her South End apartment when Louisville Metro police fatally shot her just before 1 a.m. on March 13 while serving a search warrant as a part of a narcotics investigation.
McMurtry, who is running as a Republican against Massie in the primary election, is hung up on the celebrities’ use of the word “murder,” a criminal charge that implies intent, in connection to Taylor’s death. While one of the three officers, Brett Hankison, is being fired in connection with the shooting, none have been charged with any crimes, which has sparked outrage and protests in Louisville and other parts of the country in recent weeks.
“To accuse someone of murder is defamatory per se and immediately actionable under the law,” McMurtry told The Courier Journal on Sunday. “… Somebody can be killed, and you can say ‘They were killed,’ and it’s not defamatory, but if you say ‘They were murdered,’ it’s potentially defamatory if it’s false. Murder implies a crime. That’s the distinction.”
McMurtry, a Northern Kentucky attorney who has represented Nick Sandmann in defamation cases against media companies in the aftermath of the 2019 Covington Catholic controversy, hinted that similar lawsuits could be coming.
“Being #woke may have consequences,” McMurtry wrote in a veiled threat of legal action directed toward former NWA rapper Ice Cube.
Before taking a break this weekend to focus on tweets from celebrities, McMurtry had spent months sparring with Massie and working to get his name out to Republican voters in Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
The ongoing protests related to the death of Taylor have loomed large as election day approaches.
McMurtry has represented law enforcement officials in lawsuits before, he said in an interview last week with 840-WHAS radio host Terry Meiners. And while those who have protested peacefully in recent weeks have valid points that need to be addressed, he said, police are “the backbone of our civil society.”
No-knock warrants should only be used in limited situations, he said, but a complete ban, as has been approved by Louisville Metro Council and proposed federally in a bill by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, seems like “kind of a kneejerk reaction to a very serious situation.”
“I do not know the circumstances involved in the Breonna Taylor situation,” McMurtry said. “I do know, as a person who’s been involved with law enforcement for decades, that there are plenty of bad people out there and there are limited circumstances, very rare, where such a use of a (no-knock) warrant is probably warranted.”
Earlier headlines: Massie calls protesters ‘violent looters and lawless criminals’
Massie is a well-known name in Kentucky and in the nation’s capital. He was in the spotlight this spring when he attempted to pump the brakes on the coronavirus stimulus bill and force up a recorded vote, prompting President Donald Trump to request he be thrown out of the GOP.
McMurtry told Meiners he hadn’t been endorsed by Trump or had any contact with the president’s campaign, “but … the president hasn’t asked that I be thrown out of the Republican Party, so I’m better to be on that side of the equation than the other.”
The 4th Congressional District includes much of northeastern Kentucky and smaller cities just south of Cincinnati. Massie has represented the region in Congress since 2012.
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