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Appeals court partially reverses former CMU gymnastics coach defamation lawsuit dismissal

Central Michigan University Athletics
Former Central Michigan University gymnastics coach Jerry Reighard.

A defamation lawsuit against the sports network ESPN and one of its reporters is moving forward after a Michigan Court of Appeals decision this week.

Former Central Michigan University gymnastics coach Jerry Reighard claims a pair of tweets from the reporter wrongly tied his suspension to the sex abuse crimes of former athletics doctor Larry Nassar.

A trial court previously dismissed the case because statements in the individual tweets were generally true, though Reighard’s suspension was unrelated to Nassar. Now the Michigan Court of Appeals is sending part of the complaint back to trial court, ruling that the trial court was wrong to dismiss the entire complaint based on the “substantial truth” of the tweets.

Attorney Victor Mastromarco represents Reighard. He says the appellate court was thorough in deciding the case needs another look.

“They understood what we were saying and they believed that the implications that were created by the reporter through his tweet were actionable,” Mastromarco said. "We really believe [Reighard's rights] have been trampled on by this tweet by this reporter. And the harm that was done to him and his family and everything else over this."

Representatives for ESPN did not respond to a request for comment.