The brother of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich is suing the Washington Times and others, claiming the defendants spread false claims about him – including unfounded allegations that he helped his brother leak DNC documents to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election.
Aaron Rich, brother of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. It accuses Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, America First Media, activist and talk-show host Matt Couch and the Washington Times of acting “with reckless disregard for the truth.”
As WND reported, Seth Rich, 27, was a DNC voter expansion data director for two years and had accepted a position with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He was murdered in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2016, near his apartment in an affluent neighborhood. Rich was shot twice in the back with a handgun, and his wallet, credit cards, watch and phone were left in his possession. The Metropolitan Police Department has described it as a “botched robbery.” A full 18 months later, no suspects have been named, and no one has been arrested.
Private investigators have claimed there is evidence Rich was the source WikiLeaks used to obtain thousands of Democratic National Committee emails released on the eve of the party’s presidential nominating convention last July, but they haven’t provided verifiable proof of those claims. The DNC emails, indicating the party was manipulating the primary race in favor of Hillary Clinton, led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. On July 22, just 12 days after Rich’s death and days before the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia, WikiLeaks released 20,000 emails from DNC officials.
As WND also reported, a manager at Lou’s City Bar, the last known location where Rich was seen before his murder, claimed police never interviewed the bar’s staff or requested evidence, such as footage from security cameras. And police never questioned Rich’s DNC co-workers.
Furthermore, WND reported, emergency responders, along with the Metropolitan Police Department and two local hospitals, refused to reveal what hospital admitted and treated Rich before a physician pronounced him dead on July 10, 2016. And the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner refused to release Rich’s autopsy report.
Aaron Rich’s lawsuit states that Aaron experienced harm to his reputation and emotional distress because the defendants allegedly claimed he was linked to the purported theft of DNC emails.
CNN reported: “The suit alleges those people and media companies pushed a conspiracy theory about Aaron Rich that used his background as a defense contractor with technical expertise to suggest he worked with his brother to leak DNC documents to Wikileaks, received money for doing so, and then worked to cover-up the crime.”
Aaron’s attorney, Michael Gottlieb, told CNN: “Not satisfied with the existing conspiracy theory about Seth Rich … Defendants Ed Butowsky, Matt Couch, and America First Media have spent the past year creating and disseminating a made-up conspiracy theory that Aaron Rich was the technological know-how behind, and financial beneficiary of, Seth’s operation.”
The lawsuit claims there was a Periscope video hosted by Couch on Aug. 15, 2017, during which Butowsky wrote in a chatroom, “Aaron Rich needs to come out and admit money in his account.”
Couch allegedly replied: “Ed just put it out there – Aaron Rich accepted money. Aaron Rich had money from WikiLeaks go into his personal account. Think about that. Aaron Rich had Wikileaks money go into his personal account, OK?”
Aaron’s lawsuit also cites a Washington Times opinion article dated March 1, 2018, and written by James A. Lyons. The commentary piece stated, “Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was [sic] paid by Wikileaks for that information.”
The Times piece does not clarify which intelligence sources believe the Rich brothers took the emails and what evidence they have showing WikiLeaks paid for the documents.
The lawsuit says the paper didn’t retract the opinion piece after “receiving notice of the falsity of the statements about Aaron after the publication,” according to CNN.
“Our constitutional system leaves wide room for debate on issues of public concern, but individuals like Defendants poison that deliberate space when they flood it with fabricated information about private figures like Aaron,” the lawsuit states, adding, “Defendants are entitled to their own opinions, but they can and must be held accountable for their lies.”
The Times has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment. Butowsky, who told CNN he has no clue what Aaron is “talking about,” said, “I have nothing else to say, other than how many more family members do the Riches have that want to sue me?”
In a Periscope video, Couch said he’s “being sued for investigating the truth.”
“You’re not going to detour us from investigating this and reporting the truth,” Couch said. “And what you’ve done now is you’ve opened yourself up to a discovery phase. A discovery phase. Which means now I can subpoena your phone records, the laptops, your cell phones. And guess what folks? I want it all.”
WND has reported Rich’s family members’ statements that they are “devastated” by the frenzy surrounding the murder of their son. Family spokesman Brad Bauman and the Rich family have repeatedly declined to respond to WND’s requests for comment.
As WND reported just weeks ago, Rich’s parents are suing Fox News, claiming his 2016 slaying was used as a “political football.”
Joel and Mary Rich say Fox News, a reporter and a guest commentator presented “lies, misrepresentations and half-truths” in a May 2017 article about the murder of their son, who served as the DNC voter-expansion data director at the time he was killed. The article, which was later retracted, claimed an FBI forensics examination revealed that Rich had leaked emails to WikiLeaks before he was murdered. Fox said the story was not subjected to its “high degree of editorial scrutiny.”
The Rich family lawsuit claims Fox reporter Malia Zimmerman and Fox guest commentator Ed Butowsky made up the story linking their son to WikiLeaks.
“No parent should ever have to live through what we’ve been forced to endure,” Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement that was reported by the Associated Press. “The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension.”
As WND reported, in an August 2016 interview, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared to suggest that Rich was one of his sources. Assange has said WikiLeaks will not reveal the identities of any of its sources.
Also, as WND reported in August 2017, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh appeared to have dropped a bombshell in audio – pointing out that the DNC emails obtained by WikiLeaks stopped pouring in after the mysterious murder of Rich in 2016.
In the audio, Hersh also claimed an FBI report described to him by an insider confirmed that Rich had taken some emails to WikiLeaks and requested payment for a full trove of DNC emails during the presidential campaign.
The latest DNC email released by WikiLeaks was dated May 18, 2016 – just weeks before Rich was shot twice in the back with a handgun.
“There are no DNC or Podesta emails that exist beyond May 21 or 22, last email from either one of those groups. What the report says is that some time in late spring … he makes contact with WikiLeaks, that’s in his computer,” Hersh said in audio almost certainly recorded by financier Ed Butowsky, who originally hired private investigator Rod Wheeler to investigate the murder of Rich.
Hersh continued: “Anyway, they found what he had done is that he had submitted a series of documents — of emails, of juicy emails, from the DNC.”
The following audio was first posted on a site called Big League Politics. It went viral after it was linked on Twitter by WikiLeaks. (Warning: This audio contains explicit language may offend some readers.)
On the audio recording, Hersh said his information came from a source “on the inside,” a “very high-level guy” who is “unbelievably accurate and careful.” He said WikiLeaks was able to acquire access to a password-protected dropbox that contained the emails.
Hersh also claims the DNC invented a story alleging Russian “hacking,” with help from then-CIA Director John Brennan, as a cover story.
While Hersh said he believed the MPD’s “botched robbery” account of Rich’s murder, he claimed that the DNC staffer had been concerned for his safety at the time of his death.
As WND reported, the total reward for solving Rich’s murder currently stands at approximately a half-million dollars. However, the DNC has offered no reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer of its own young staffer. Instead, the DNC honored its murdered employee by dedicating a bike rack outside its headquarters to Rich’s memory.