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Judge rules libel case against 'Argus Leader' will go to jury trial

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  1. Libel and Privacy
South Dakota Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Caldwell ruled this week that a jury ought to decide a libel case between…

South Dakota Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Caldwell ruled this week that a jury ought to decide a libel case between the Argus Leader [Sioux Falls] and the former president of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

In November, the newspaper moved to dismiss the suit, which stems from a column it ran featuring a satirical letter of apology from former Sioux Falls Development Foundation President Dan Scott. The column ran on the paper’s Voices section underneath executive editor Randell Beck’s byline and photograph purporting to be an apology written by Scott, who had come under fire for telling state lawmakers who did not want to help Sioux Falls develop to “stay out of the way” because he had “a city build.”

In the fake apology, Beck, writing as Scott, said that he “was, uh, let’s see, I was really talking about legislators in NORTH Dakota. Yeah, that’s it! North Dakota” and went on to note that he was “hoping people are dumb enough to think I’m apologizing, which I’m not.”

Despite clues that the column was a work of parody, Scott’s lawyer, former South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow, argued that at least some of the newspaper’s readers attributed the letter to Scott.