Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer filed a defamation lawsuit against The Athletic and a reporter, alleging that they misled readers by intentionally omitting information in reports about a sexual assault allegation against him last year.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, accused The Athletic and its former writer Molly Knight of a harassment campaign to malign him. Bauer alleges that the outlet had access to his accuser’s medical records and intentionally omitted that CT scans showed she did not suffer a fractured skull.
Law enforcement officials investigated Bauer after a woman filed a restraining order request under a domestic violence prevention law last year. She accused Bauer of becoming violent during sexual encounters at her home in Pasadena.
He has denied assaulting the woman and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges.
In her request for the restraining order, the woman said that she met Bauer through Instagram and accused him of choking her until she lost consciousness, repeatedly punching her and giving her injuries that required hospitalization.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against Bauer after failing to come up with a case that would prove relevant charges “beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors said in February.
“I never assaulted her in any way at any time,” Bauer said in a video statement that month. “While we did have consensual rough sex, the disturbing acts and conduct that she described simply did not occur.”
He denies the allegations, but focused on what he described as misrepresentations of the facts of his allegations in his defamation complaint.
As of Wednesday, The Athletic article says that it was updated after Bauer’s representatives “emphasized that medical records showed that while the woman was initially diagnosed with signs of a basilar skull fracture, a subsequent CT scan found no acute fracture.”
According to Bauer’s suit, The Athletic published the article based on documents filed for the restraining order, which included medical documents, “yet made no mention that the results of those scans were negative” for a fracture after saying she had signs of one.
The Athletic’s article “led to a proliferation of articles and tweets referring to a nonexistent skull fracture,” according to the complaint.
The Athletic said in a statement to NBC News that it was aware of Bauer’s legal action.
“We’re confident in our reporting and plan to defend against the claim,” the outlet said.
Bauer further alleges that Knight, whose LinkedIn says she was a writer for The Athletic until July 2021, tweeted false claims that he fractured the women’s skull.
According to the lawsuit, Knight tweeted on July 2, 2021, that it was not possible to “consent to a fractured skull.”
“That tweet concerned Mr. Bauer because it responded to two prior messages from other Twitter users about the allegations against Mr. Bauer,” the suit said.
The suit alleges that Knight then tweeted: “There seems to be some confusion surrounding the issue of consent but here is some clarity: it’s not possible to consent to a cracked skull.”
Knight did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the allegations.
Bauer asserts that Knight’s alleged tweets and The Athletic’s decision to omit the full results of the CT scans gave readers a “reasonable understanding” that the woman sustained a skull fracture. That impression, the suit said, severely damaged Bauer’s reputation of her.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1964 that a public figure must provide an “actual malice” standard in defamation suits, providing a publisher acted with reckless disregard of the truth or knowledge of a statement’s falsity.
The lawsuit states that The Athletic’s history of publishing what was described as “negative” articles about Bauer and the omission of the scan results meets the current malice standards.
It also states that Knight had access to “publicly available” documents that disproved her tweets regarding a fractured skull, but acted with actual malice by publishing them anyway, the suit said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism