The family of 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann has hired a lawyer who specializes in libel and slander cases, a sign that the family could target news outlets that took aim at the Covington Catholic High School student for his role in a viral incident last weekend.
Sandmann was among a contingent of students from his Kentucky school to travel to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life that ended in a controversial standoff with Native American Nathan Phillips. In video that sparked viral interest, a smirking Sandmann could be seen standing in the face of the Native American man as he sang a traditional song. The incident drew immediate backlash and cries that Sandmann and his classmates were being racist in their mocking of Phillips, though later developments painted a more complicated picture of the incident.
Phillips later claimed that he was trying to diffuse tensions between the students and a group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, notorious street preachers who often berate passersby and make provocative and racist statements. Sandmann claimed he never intended to mock Phillips, but instead hoped that by standing still and smiling he would show that he posed no threat.
This response was met with some skepticism, especially as other videos of the incident showed students mocking Phillips and also making provocative statements of their own during the march.
As WCPO reported, Nicholas Sandmann’s family has been aggressive in their response, first hiring a public relations firm with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to draft the teen’s original response, and now seeking the help of lawyer L. Lin Wood. The Sandmann family attorney, Todd McMurty, issued a press release saying the family consulted with Wood, who has a reputation for working with notorious clients.
The WCPO report noted that Wood worked for former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain after he faced allegations of sexual harassment, which would eventually lead to his dropping out of the 2012 presidential race.
“Other notable clients include the family of JonBenet Ramsey, who were suspects in the child pageant queen’s murder, and Richard Jewell, a Centennial Olympic Park guard misidentified as having bombed his workplace in 1996,” the report noted.
The case also attracted the attention of President Donald Trump, who later in the week identified Sandmann by name in a tweet and said that he and the other students from Covington Catholic High School were treated unfairly by the media, the Times of Israel reported. The bishop of the Covington diocese also issued an apology to the students for an initial statement condemning their behavior.
Covington bishop now says he hopes Nicholas Sandmann and other students are exonerated. https://t.co/ozCcEJ2PGr
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) January 26, 2019
It was not clear if Nicholas Sandmann’s family planned to pursue any legal action against those who reported on the incident.