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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Defamation, discrimination lawsuits against Current and the University dismissed

Plaintiff intends to appeal the ruling

Editor’s note: Editor-in-Chief Nina Heller, Administration and Local News Editor Skye Witley, Sports Managing Editor Ben Morse and Assistant Copy Editor Gabe Ferris have all previously worked as editorial interns at Current and were not involved in the writing, reporting or editing of this story.

A former WAMU editor whose 2020 defamation and discrimination lawsuits against American University and others was dismissed plans to appeal the verdict, he confirmed to The Eagle.

The initial defamation lawsuit included the former WAMU staffers and Current, a School of Communication-owned independent publication that covers public media. The plaintiff, Zuri Berry, later filed a second suit against the University, alleging discrimination. 

The lawsuits were dismissed under the D.C. Anti-SLAPP law, a law that prohibits “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or litigation designed to silence public criticism and discourse by tying defendants up in court and saddling them with legal fees. 

Berry filed a notice of appeal for both lawsuits on April 4, contesting both the order to cover legal fees in the defamation lawsuit and the dismissal of the discrimination lawsuit. 

He initially sued Current after it published a story that detailed an investigation into Berry over his role in the departure of several women of color from the station. The investigation followed complaints from female WAMU staffers who worked under Berry over the span of almost a year. 

Sasha Fernandez, now an AU alumna, was one of the named defendants in the lawsuit. At the time, Fernandez was a student and editorial intern at Current, where she wrote and reported the story. Fernandez declined to comment.

Berry sued for $10 million in damages, alleging defamation and discrimination on the basis of race and sex. While he confirmed to The Eagle that he intends to appeal, he did not disclose on what grounds.

Representatives of the University and Current said they could not comment on pending litigation. 

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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