Alec Baldwin is being sued for defamation and negligence in a lawsuit filed by family members of a fallen Marine who claim the actor accused one family member of being an “insurrectionist” at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The lawsuit, which is seeking US$25 million in damages, was filed by the two sisters and widow of Lance Corporal Rylee J. McCollum, who was killed during a suicide bomber attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26, 2021. The family is also suing Baldwin for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Baldwin and his lawyer have not responded publicly to the lawsuit.
Following McCollum’s death, a GoFundMe was established to provide financial aid to the Marine’s widow, Jiennah McCollum, “and her soon-to-be-born daughter.” The lawsuit claims Baldwin, 64, reached out to McCollum’s sister, Roice McCollum, in order to send a $5,000 cheque to the new widow as “a tribute to a fallen soldier.”
Things turned sour on Jan. 3, 2022, when the lawsuit says Roice “posted a photo of a crowd of demonstrators at the Washington Monument on her Instagram page in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of her attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021 Washington, DC demonstration.”
At the demonstration, hundreds of supporters of then-president Donald Trump assembled at the U.S. Capitol to protest the results of the 2020 election. The protest reached a peak when several rioters forcefully entered the Capitol building, triggering panic and violence.
According to the lawsuit, Baldwin messaged Roice on Instagram about her post. Baldwin allegedly wrote, “When I sent the $ for your late brother, out of real respect for his service to this country, I didn’t know you were a January 6th rioter.”
The legal filing claims Roice “was never detained, arrested, charged with or convicted of any crime associated with her attendance at the January 6, 2021, event in Washington, DC.”
“Protesting is perfectly legal in the country and I’ve already had my sit down with the FBI. Thanks, have a nice day!” Roice replied to Baldwin’s message, as per the lawsuit.
Baldwin then responded, allegedly messaging Roice, “I don’t think so. Your activities resulted in the unlawful destruction of government property, the death of a law enforcement officer, an assault on the certification of the presidential election. I reposted your photo. Good luck.”
The actor posted a photo of Roice’s Instagram account to his own page about 20 minutes after sending the message. The lawsuit claims Roice almost immediately “began to get hostile, aggressive, hateful messages from Baldwin’s followers.”
As of this writing, Baldwin has 2.5 million followers on Instagram. (According to the lawsuit, Baldwin had 2.4 million followers at the time he posted about Roice.)
“Lots of Trumpsters chiming in here with the current cry that the attack on the Capitol was a protest, (a more peaceful form of which got a lot of other protestors imprisoned) and an exercise in democracy,” Baldwin wrote in the post’s caption.
“I gratefully supported the gofundme campaign while simultaneously not knowing the woman I approached is an insurrectionist. I think that’s…remarkable,” Baldwin wrote.
The post of Roice’s page has since been deleted.
McCollum’s other sister Cheyenne and his widow Jiennah also began to receive “hateful messages and even death threats,” according to the lawsuit. Jiennah, who is Black, also received messages calling her a “racist.”
Neither Cheyenne nor Jiennah were present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
A press release from the legal firm representing the family called Baldwin’s post “fuse-lighting.” In the lawsuit, the family claims Baldwin “unequivocally understood that by forwarding Roice’s Instagram feed to 2.4 million like-minded followers and posting his commentary would result in the onslaught of threats and hatred that it did.”
The family is asking for a trial by jury.
In the press release, one of the family’s lawyers, Dennis Postiglione, said that regardless of a person’s political alignment “what Baldwin did here should never be allowed to stand.”
“He is one of the most recognizable people in the country and has a social media following five times the population of the State of Wyoming,” Postiglione continued. “He abused that platform willingly and put the McCollums through hell at a time when they had just begun to cope with Rylee’s death. This lawsuit will hold him accountable to the McCollum family and the proud legacy of Lance Corporal McCollum.”
The family first filed the lawsuit on Jan. 17, 2022, in the United States District Court of Wyoming. The suit was later dismissed in May, as the court did not have jurisdiction over Baldwin, who lives in New York.
On Aug. 19, the family filed the lawsuit for a second time in the Southern District of New York.