Libre by Nexus v. Buzzfeed, Inc.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA _________________________________________ ) LIBRE BY NEXUS, ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) Case No. 17-cv-01460 (APM) ) BUZZFEED, INC., et al., ) ) Defendants. ) _________________________________________ ) MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER I. INTRODUCTION This case arises out of the publication of a BuzzFeed News article about Plaintiff Libre by Nexus and an alleged federal law enforcement investigation into its business practices. In response to the article, Plaintiff filed this defamation action against BuzzFeed, Inc. (“BuzzFeed”), and its editor-in-chief, Ben Smith (collectively “Defendants”). Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and the District of Columbia Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“Anti-SLAPP”) Act of 2010, D.C. Code §§ 16-5501 et seq. For the reasons stated below, the court grants in part and denies in part Defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion and denies Defendants’ special motion to dismiss under the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act. II. BACKGROUND A. Factual Background Plaintiff Libre by Nexus is a Virginia-based company that helps immigrant detainees nationwide to secure bail bonds. Am. Compl., ECF No. 2, ¶¶ 3, 8. Plaintiff provides such services by acting as a middleman between immigrant detainees and bail bond companies. See id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff contracts with bail bond companies who actually post the immigration bonds, and Plaintiff, in turn, secures the immigrations bonds through indemnifying bonds and by using GPS technology to monitor released immigrant-detainees. Id. A released detainee does not have to pay the full amount of the bond, nor is the detainee required to pay collateral or use his own property as security. See id. According to Plaintiff, its “immigration bond initiative . . . has reunited thousands of families.” Id. On July 23, 2016, BuzzFeed published an online article (“the Article”) titled “Immigrants Desperate To Get Out Of U.S. Detention Can Get Trapped By Debt” about Plaintiff and its business practices. Id. ¶ 9. The Article begins with an interview of an immigrant detainee who expresses gratitude to Plaintiff for securing his release, but laments the financial burden imposed by one of the release conditions, specifically, a monthly fee of $420 he must pay to Plaintiff for the GPS monitoring. See Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 6 [hereinafter Defs.’ Mot.], Decl. of Chad R. Bowman, Ex. A, ECF No. 6-2 [hereinafter Article], at 1–2. The Article then goes on to quote immigrant advocates who criticize Plaintiff’s business model. According to the advocates, because of the prolonged period between release and a final hearing in court, some released detainees end up paying more than the immigration bond itself, leaving them with a heavy financial burden. Id. at 2–3. The Article then details Plaintiff’s business model. It explains that Plaintiff’s “customers” sign a contract agreeing to pay a nonrefundable $620 initial fee, a one-time 20 percent premium to the bond issuer, and a $420 monthly rental fee for the GPS tracking equipment. Id. at 3. Upon release, if the customer can pay 80 percent of ...

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