The defendants conceded that the articles contained three inaccuracies:
- That LaChance had been convicted of manslaughter. In fact, he was convicted of rape, aggravated rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, indecent assault and battery, and assault by means of a dangerous weapon.
- That he claimed in his online ads to be in prison for manslaughter.
- That he had committed a “brutal sexual attack on an elderly woman.”
The case is notable for three reasons:
- The court held that LaChance was a “public figure” for purposes of libel law because, by placing his ads online and making deceptive assertions in those ads, he had injected himself into a matter of public concern, “specifically the dangers of interacting with violent felons online.”
- Even though the stories contained inaccuracies, they were not “actionably false” within the meaning of libel law because “publication of the plaintiff’s actual criminal record … would have been, at the very least, equally as damaging to the plaintiff’s reputation in the mind of a reader.”
- The court affirms the applicability of the “fair reporting privilege,” a privilege that protects the publication of information taken from judicial, legislative or other official proceedings. The newspaper’s report that LaChance had committed a sexual assault on an elderly woman was based on the incorrect statement in a court docket that he had committed an “assault and battery on an elderly person.” Because the newspaper had no way of knowing the docket was incorrect, its reporting of that information was privileged, the court said.