«Varsity Blues» Defendant and Family Members File Defamation Lawsuit Against Netflix

BOSTON, April 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Mr. John B. Wilson, who has declared his innocence in the so-called «Varsity Blues»…

BOSTON, April 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Mr. John B. Wilson, who has declared his innocence in the so-called «Varsity Blues» case and has been awaiting his day in court, together with members of his family, have filed a civil defamation lawsuit against Netflix for knowingly airing a «documentary» that they allege falsely and misleadingly included the Wilson family as participants in the  allegations of  misconduct made by the government against other «Varsity Blues» defendant parents who have admitted their guilt in court.  The lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts state court by Todd & Weld LLP, alleges that in both statements of fact and innuendo, Netflix outright ignored clear and publicly available evidence of Mr. Wilson’s innocence which had been provided to Netflix pre-publication and, in so doing, leaves  viewers the false and defamatory impression that the Wilsons engaged in conduct to which others have pled guilty such as having a non-athlete child apply to college as an athlete, photo-shopping pictures to fake their athleticism, and having others take college admissions tests for their children, when neither Mr. Wilson nor his family members did none of these things. To the contrary, the Complaint alleges, with photographic evidence in support, that Mr. Wilson’s son was a star athlete and that his daughters took their own exams and received excellent scores.  The Complaint states that «No individual, including a defendant awaiting trial in a criminal case, is required to sit by and permit the unlawful and unfair destruction of their reputation by a global media outlet.»

Central to the Complaint is the allegation that Netflix aired the «documentary» even when the Wilson family provided specific, publicly available, and wholly exculpatory facts surrounding the charges against Mr. Wilson and that these facts made clear that grouping Mr. Wilson and his children with the many individuals who have pled guilty to committing crimes would be reckless and defamatory. The Complaint attaches a letter and voluminous materials sent to Netflix pre-publication.  Mr. Wilson is the only one of the «Varsity Blues» parent defendants featured in the ‘documentary’ who has not pleaded guilty.

The Complaint outlines allegations as to how Netflix deliberately ignored publicly available facts and documents that prove that Wilson is innocent and that his children could gain admission to college on their own. The allegedly publicly available exculpatory information that the Wilsons provided to Netflix in advance of the airing includes the fact that the Wilson’s son was a talented water polo player who was part of the United States Olympic development program and was a starter on multiple highly nationally ranked high school and club teams and was approached by more than one Division I college water polo and swimming teams to possibly join their programs.  Additionally, Netflix was also informed that the Wilson daughters had 99th percentile test scores based on tests that they took, and that one daughter received a perfect score on her ACT test.

The Complaint alleges that ‘documentary’ contains reenactments of telephone calls between Singer and Wilson, with excerpts taken out of context and juxtaposed with excerpts of calls featuring other parents making genuinely incriminating statements.  The Complaint alleges that the result is an untrue depiction that the Wilson family orchestrated through Singer standardized test cheating, staging or «photoshopping» photos of non-athlete children for fake athletic profiles, and paying bribes to college or university personnel to gain admission for their children and that none of these portrayals are accurate.

Additionally, the Complaint alleges that the Wilsons supplied Netflix with the results of extensive polygraph testing conducted by highly respected and experienced professionals, which proved that Mr. Wilson did not bribe or direct anyone else to bribe any college official to violate their college admissions policies, nor did he know Singer’s college application process was illegal.

Finally, the Complaint alleges that instead of editing the ‘documentary’ to include the facts necessary to fairly and accurately report on the nature of the Wilson family’s involvement with Singer, Netflix knowingly ignored these facts, instead unfairly branded the Wilson family as cheaters and criminals, without regard to the true facts. Accordingly, the members of the Wilson family claim that they have suffered, and continue to suffer, substantial harm and damages.  According to the lawsuit, they are entitled to public apologies and retractions and the award of significant monetary damages.

Other named defendants of the suit are 241C Films, LLC and Library Films LLC, producers of the ‘documentary, Jon Karmen, a principal of 241C and Library Films, and the credited producer of the ‘documentary’ and Chris Smith, a principal of 241C and Library Films, and the credited director of the ‘documentary.’ A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

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SOURCE Todd & Weld LLP