DETROIT - A lawyer for Michael Moore urged a federal judge Friday to dismiss a libel lawsuit against the documentary filmmaker filed by the brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.Moore attorney Herschel Fink argued during a hearing that James Nichols' claims "range from the frivolous to the silly," and that Moore only reported the truth and his constitutionally protected opinion in the 2002 film "Bowling for Columbine."
James Nichols' attorney, Kenneth McIntyre, argued that Moore "offered half-truths or total untruths" to accuse his client of being an accomplice in the April 1995 bombing that killed 168 people.
Terry Nichols is serving two life sentences without parole for his role in the bombing. Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 for masterminding the attack.
Among the items in question in Nichols' lawsuit are Moore's use of the term "practice bombs" in the movie to refer to explosives the Nichols brothers and McVeigh made on a farm prior to the Oklahoma City bombing.
James Nichols also claims that Moore incorrectly stated he had been arrested in connection with the bombing. McIntyre said Moore knew James Nichols was only held as a material witness and that later charges against him were not connected with the bombing and eventually were dropped.
McIntyre also took issue with a phrase in the film that alleges federal agents couldn't get "the goods" on James Nichols, so they dropped the charges against him. He said viewers would think Nichols was involved but somehow got out of it.
Fink called Nichols' complaint "the perfect storm of libel suits."
He said Moore's reports are based on documents from court and other sources and items from reliable news outlets. He also argued that Moore's statements are protected because James Nichols, who has written a book, given speeches and appeared in several media interviews, is a public figure.
"When you see a Michael Moore film, you know it's opinion," Fink said. "And it's protected."
Neither Moore nor James Nichols were at the hearing; Judge Paul D. Borman said he will issue a decision after he reviews the case.
The filmmaker was in Traverse City, where tickets went on sale Friday for his inaugural Traverse City Film Festival. Moore, a Flint native who now lives in northern Michigan, announced the lineup for the July 27-31 festival 31 films in total, including classics and independently produced films.
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