Zim­mer­man’s li­bel law­suit may be close to set­tle­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

Ryan Zim­mer­man’s lengthy li­bel and slan­der law­suit against Al Jazeera took another pivot late last week.

What was set as an ini­tial sched­ul­ing con­fer­ence on June 1, in­stead turned into a pre­sen­ta­tion for the par­ties’ in­ter­ests in ex­plor­ing a set­tle­ment in the case, which be­gan Jan. 5, 2016, when Zim­mer­man filed a li­bel law­suit against Al Jazeera in U.S. Dis­trict Court fol­low­ing the air­ing of the doc­u­men­tary, “The Dark Side” which sug­gested Zim­mer­man had used per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.

The court has or­dered the par­ties to file a joint sta­tus re­port by June 28 that no­ti­fies the court of the par­ties’ progress with set­tle­ment dis­cus­sions and how the par­ties wish to pro­ceed.

When Zim­mer­man took the rare step of su­ing a me­dia out­let for li­bel — which can be costly, in­va­sive and hard to prove — he knew he was tak­ing on a chal­lenge. The case slogged along un­til Judge Ke­tanji Brown Jackson ruled March 31 on mo­tions to dis­miss sub­mit­ted by Al Jazeera, re­porter Deb­o­rah Davies and doc­u­men­tary con­trib­u­tor Liam Collins. Those mo­tions were granted and de­nied in part. In a nutshell, Collins was cleared. Al Jazeera and Davies re­mained part of the process, which could even­tu­ally lead to a pro­tracted trial.

Zim­mer­man has said he de­cided to sue to back up his de­nial of the claims made in the doc­u­men­tary. Ma­jor League Base­ball in­ves­ti­gated last year and found no vi­o­la­tions by Zim­mer­man. The fo­cus of the doc­u­men­tary, Char­lie Sly, re­canted his state­ments be­fore it aired. Al Jazeera de­cided to air the doc­u­men­tary any­way.

Ini­tially, the doc­u­men­tary in­fu­ri­ated Zim­mer­man who has spent his en­tire ca­reer in Washington. He spoke can­didly at spring train­ing in 2016 about his views on what he be­lieved was a slan­der­ous tape, another rare step for an ath­lete ac­cused of us­ing PEDs.

“Af­ter the first week or two, when all the shock and the me­dia and all that wears off and now you just have to live with it and go through it when there’s no at­ten­tion re­ally, it be­comes part of your daily life,” Zim­mer­man said then. “Which, I would say at the be­gin­ning, it al­most con­sumed me be­cause you’re so up­set about it and you’re so wor­ried about mak­ing it right. Also that’s kind of the per­son­al­ity I have. I’m a very type-A per­son. I’m very sched­uled and reg­i­mented and to have some­thing like this hap­pen, it was al­most to the point where I just wanted to do what­ever I could to show peo­ple my in­no­cence, to the point where my wife had to tell me to take it easy.”

The first base­man has en­joyed a bounce-back sea­son this year. A sea­son af­ter he hit just .218, Zim­mer­man has wielded one of the most po­tent bats in the Na­tional League. He en­tered Sun­day hit­ting .368 with 15 home runs, which is as many as he hit last sea­son, and 17 dou­bles.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In his li­bel suit, Na­tion­als first base­man Ryan Zim­mer­man must no­tify the court by June 28 of set­tle­ment progress .

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