Shia LaBeouf claims rant against ‘racist’ bartender was free speech
Shia LaBeouf’s lawyer has claimed that the actor’s rant against a bartender for refusing to serve him alcohol was “protected free speech”.
The Transformers star was kicked out of Los Angeles-area bowling alley Pinz on 5 April (17), after a heated argument with server David Bernstein at Jerry’s Famous Deli, which is located within the venue.
Video posted online showed LaBeouf yelling at Bernstein over his apparent refusal to serve him, with the 31-year-old calling him a “f**king racist”.
Bernstein then sued LaBeouf for assault and defamation, seeking $5 million (£3.9 million) in damages.
However, LaBeouf is hoping that the suit may be thrown out by a Californian court, after his lawyer Briand Wolf argued that his rant is protected under his First Amendment rights.
Wolf wrote in his submission to the court that the action “amounts to little more than attempted civil extortion,” adding that it’s “widely recognised that ‘name-calling,’ no matter how obnoxious or vulgar, is not defamatory.”
He continued to state that not only is the case “completely frivolous in nature”, it also is an example of a star being held liable because his “celebrity status turned what would have otherwise been a wholly private encounter… into a matter of significant public interest.”
Bernstein also alleged LaBeouf had intentionally inflicted emotional distress by pounding his fist on the bar during the row. However, Wolf adds that these claims are “communicative and in furtherance of the very same protected free speech.”
“While Plaintiff’s feelings may have been hurt by being called a racist by Defendant, ‘(t)here is no occasion for the law to intervene where someone’s feelings are hurt,'” he concluded. “Indeed, Plaintiff’s own admitted conduct in threatening to hit Defendant with a Grey Goose bottle was more outrageous than anything that Defendant is alleged to have done.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the case will be dismissed.