Ike Thomas Kaveladze Complaint .pdf

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Title: Anti-SLAPP Motion (00543580-6).DOC
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H. MARC RUPP #198871
HOWARD M. RUPP, APLC
615 N PAULINA AVE
REDONDO BEACH, CA 90277
Telephone: (310) 903-8497
Facsimile: (310) 733-5663
Marc@hmrupp.com
SCOTT S. BALBER (Pro Hac Vice Application To Be Filed)
HERBERT SMITH FREEHILLS NEW YORK LLP
450 LEXINGTON AVENUE, 14TH FLOOR
NEW YORK, NY 10017
Telephone: (917) 542-7600
Facsimile: (917) 542-7601
Scott.balber@hsf.com
Attorneys for Plaintiff
IKE THOMAS KAVELADZE

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SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

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COUNTY OF ORANGE

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IKE THOMAS KAVELADZE,

Case No.:

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Plaintiff,

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COMPLAINT FOR:

vs.

(1) LIBEL; AND
(2) SLANDER

GEORGE LAKOFF, an individual; and
DOES 1-10, inclusive,

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Defendants.

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1

COMPLAINT

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COMES NOW Plaintiff IKE THOMAS KAVELADZE (“Plaintiff” or “Kaveladze”), who

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complains of Defendants GEORGE LAKOFF (“Lakoff” or “Defendant”), and DOES 1 through

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10 (collectively “Defendants”), inclusive, as follows:
PARTIES, JURISDICTION, AND VENUE

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1.

Plaintiff Kaveladze is a Georgian-American business executive, and senior vice

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president at Crocus Group, who resides in Orange County, California. At all times relevant to this

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Complaint Plaintiff was (and is) a private figure who was injured by Defendant’s conduct in

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Orange County, California.

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2.

Defendant Lakoff is, and at all times mentioned herein was, a California resident.

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Upon information and belief, Defendant Lakoff is a professor of linguistics and cognitive science

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at the University of California.

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3.

The true names and capacities, whether individual, corporate, associate, or otherwise

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of the Defendant DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, are unknown to Plaintiff, who therefore sues said

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DOE Defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiff will file DOE Amendments and/or will ask

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leave of court to amend this Complaint to show their true names and capacities when the same have

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been ascertained. Plaintiff is informed and believes and on such information and belief alleges that

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DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, and each of them are primarily responsible for the occurrences

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herein alleged and that Plaintiff’s damages alleged herein were proximately caused by such DOE

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Defendants. Each reference in this Complaint to “Defendant” or “Lakoff” refers also to all

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Defendants sued under fictitious names.
NATURE OF THE ACTION

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4.

Plaintiff incorporates herein by this reference the allegations of paragraphs 1 through

3 above, as if fully set forth herein.
5.

This action arises from the reckless and malicious libel and slander committed by

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Lakoff against Plaintiff, involving completely unfounded and false accusations that Plaintiff is a

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“money launderer.” Kaveladze, a law-abiding American citizen, father and businessman, seeks by

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this action to dispel the cloud created by Lakoff’s baseless and scurrilous accusations.

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2

COMPLAINT

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6.

Kaveladze is a senior vice president at a real estate development company called

Crocus Group.
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On January 3, 2018, George Lakoff, a linguistics professor from Berkeley,

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participated in an interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC (the “Chuck Todd Interview”), broadcast

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live to the world, and permanently recorded in video and an online transcript, in which Lakoff

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described Kaveladze as “the major person who has been responsible for money laundering from

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Russian and other Soviet countries.”

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8.

Lakoff is a frequent guest on MSNBC, appearing on the network multiple times in

the last year alone.
9.

Despite MSNBC’s frequent invitations to Lakoff, it is unclear why his background

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in linguistics and cognitive science qualifies him to appear on television and opine about money

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laundering.

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10.

Lakoff’s statements regarding Kaveladze are absolutely and demonstrably false, and

were made with no factual basis whatsoever.
11.

Lakoff’s reckless, false, and damaging statements were completely unresponsive to

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Todd’s question – which was about press coverage of President Trump’s social media

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communications – as if Lakoff desperately and breathlessly needed to be sure to get his false

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statements about Kaveladze out to the public.

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12.

Lakoff’s false statements have caused immense personal and professional damages

to Kaveladze.
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The false statements are available on the internet, so the damage caused to

Kaveladze is ongoing.
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The malicious and willful nature of Lakoff’s false statements warrants the

imposition of punitive damages.
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Kaveladze brings this action to recover all damages, including lost wages and

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income, as well as for the professional, personal, and compensatory damages he has sustained, plus

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interest, as well as punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the court.

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3

COMPLAINT

1
FACTS

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A.

Defendant Appeared on National Television and Blatantly Defamed Plaintiff.

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16.

Plaintiff incorporates herein by this reference the allegations of paragraphs 1 through

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15 above, as if fully set forth herein.
17.

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On January 3, 2018, Lakoff was interviewed as a guest of Chuck Todd on the

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television program MTP Daily, a program which averages 1,180,000 viewers according to recent

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polls.

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The video from the interview, as well as a transcript are publicly-available at

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http://www.msnbc.com/mtp-daily/watch/why-does-trump-keep-tweeting-1128707651918 and

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http://www.msnbc.com/transcripts/mtp-daily/2018-01-03.

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19.

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TODD: And you would like to see less coverage of the Twitter feed. You have made that
abundantly clear. How? How do you do that with the president?

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The transcript reads, in relevant part:

LAKOFF: Let`s take it right now. Right now, President Trump is in a noose. It`s the
money laundering noose that`s tightening around his neck. It shows up not just in Bannon`s
point about money laundering and also in the fusion point about money laundering the New
York Times op-ed today, but also in the fact that the main money launderer, Irakly
Kaveladze, was at the Trump Junior meeting in Trump Tower. He's the eighth man there.
He is the major person who has been responsible for money laundering from Russia and
other Soviet countries. And in addition, he set up over 2,000, you know, phony shell
corporations with bank accounts and helped use that money in the bank accounts for the
people doing the money laundering from Russia to get luxury apartments and luxury
condos.
The fact that he was invited by Trump Junior to that meeting indicates that Trump Junior
knew him well.
TODD: Right. So what you're saying is on the tweet, not covering the tweets, so you
wanted to take an example. You're saying you believe all of the tweet storm in the last two
days is all about providing air cover to distract from this money laundering news?
LAKOFF: The whole thing is distracting from money laundering, and from the fact that
Kaveladze has been summoned by Mueller and by congressional committees.

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TODD: Fair enough…
(Emphasis added).

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20.

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Thus, in response to a question from Todd regarding media coverage of President
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COMPLAINT

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Trump’s tweets, Lakoff took off on his bizarre flight of fancy regarding Plaintiff.
21.

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He first claimed that Kaveladze is “the main money launderer,” then clarified his

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statement by claiming that Kaveladze is “the major person who has been responsible for money

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laundering from Russia and other Soviet countries.” These statements are false.
22.

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Money laundering is defined by United States federal law as engaging in financial

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transactions or moving money into or out of the United States, intending to promote the carrying on

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of unlawful activity, knowing the transaction is designed to conceal or disguise the nature of the

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unlawful activity or unlawfully to evade transaction reporting requirements. See 18 U.S.C. § 1956.
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The State of California defines money laundering as conducting financial

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transactions exceeding $5,000 with specific intent to promote, or facilitate criminal activity, or

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attempting transactions exceeding $5,000 with a monetary instrument that one knows represents the

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proceeds of criminal activity. See Cal. Pen. Code § 186.10.
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Kaveladze has never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any money-

laundering or similar offense (or, for that matter, of any criminal offense at all).
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Even a layman's definition of money laundering – causing criminally obtained assets

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to appear to have been lawfully obtained – has no relevance or application with regard to

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Kaveladze.

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Lakoff's false statements, wholly unresponsive to the question Todd asked, were

completely lacking in factual basis, as Lakoff knew at the time, and were malicious in nature.
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Contrary to Lakoff's inexplicable accusations, Kaveladze is a proud, law-abiding

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American citizen, businessman, family man, and private figure. Kaveladze has lived in the United

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States for 26 years, working at Crocus Group for the last 14 years.

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Lakoff knew or should have known his statements were completely baseless and

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Lakoff did not make these statements in a moment of indiscretion in response to

untrue.

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probing questions regarding Kaveladze’s history. Rather, he brought up Kaveladze out of thin air

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and falsely alleged he had committed crimes in response to a wholly unrelated question (and

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5

COMPLAINT

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interview generally).
30.

Given Lakoff's apparent willingness to make assertions concerning Kaveladze on

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national television, with minutes of research he could have found out that Kaveladze has never

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been charged or convicted of money laundering, or any other crime. Nor is there any basis to

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conclude that Kaveladze has ever engaged in money laundering.

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31.

Kaveladze would be injured thereby, and without any regard for their lack of truthfulness.
32.

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To wit, Lakoff brought up Kaveladze unprompted, and provided no source for his

allegations that Kaveladze had committed a serious crime, nor could he, as the allegations are
completely fabricated.
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Lakoff also must not have investigated, or he would have quickly learned of the

falsity of his statements.
B.

Plaintiff Has Suffered Severe Professional and Financial Injury as a Result of
Defendant's False Statements

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Lakoff made the above statements with actual malice, knowing and intending that

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Just days after Lakoff’s false statements on national television, Kaveladze’s

accounts were closed at Chase Bank, where he has banked for over 13 years.
35.

Kaveladze has sustained severe professional and reputational damage by the false

and defamatory allegation that he is a money launderer.
36.

Kaveladze’s business depends on the sterling and forthright reputation he has

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developed working in various roles over 30 years, and Lakoff’s false statements have cost him and

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will continue to cost him untold future business and income.

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FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

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(Libel per se)

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37.

Plaintiff incorporates herein by this reference the allegations of paragraphs 1 through

36 above, as if fully set forth herein.

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38.

Defendant made false statements regarding Kaveladze being a money launderer.

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39.

These statements are defamatory on their face as they amount to a charge of the

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6

COMPLAINT

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commission of a crime.
40.

These false statements were published on national television, on the MSNBC

website, and continue to be publicly available on the internet.
41.

Defendant knows that these allegations are false and made them intentionally, with

malice, and with total disregard for their truth or for the impact they may have on Kaveladze.
42.

As a direct and proximate result of the above-described conduct by Defendant,

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Plaintiff has suffered general and special damages in an amount to be determined at trial and in an

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amount in excess of the minimum jurisdiction of the Superior Court, including without limitation,

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damage to Plaintiff’s reputation, career, and standing in the community.

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43.

Upon information and belief, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant’s conduct was done

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with oppression, fraud and malice and that, therefore, the conduct of Defendant justifies an award

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of punitive and exemplary damages.

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Upon information and belief, Plaintiff alleges that, unless enjoined and restrained by

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the Court, Defendant will republish, repeat and continue to disseminate the false and defamtorty

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statements he made in the Chuck Todd Interview, and their implications and impressions, all to the

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continuing injury of Plaintiff; that such continued republication, repetition and dissemination of

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Defendant’s defamatory and offensive falsehoods will cause irreparable harm to Plaintiff by

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damaging his reputation and adversely affecting his career and business efforts as well as his

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personal relationships. Upon information and belief, Plaintiff alleges that he lacks an adequate

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remedy at law insofar as damages will be very difficult to calculate for such on-going injuries. By

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reason of the foregoing, Plaintiff is entitled to a permanent injunction enjoining and restraining

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Defendant, and all persons acting in concert with him, from republishing, repeating, distributing or

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otherwise disseminating the false and defamatory statements he made in the Chuck Todd Interview.

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SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

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(Slander per se)

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45.

Plaintiff incorporates herein by this reference the allegations of paragraphs 1 through

42 above, as if fully set forth herein.
7

COMPLAINT

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46.

Defendant made false statements regarding Kaveladze being a money launderer.

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47.

These statements are defamatory on their face as they amount to a charge of the

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commission of a crime.
48.

These false statements were published on national television, on the MSNBC

website, and continue to be publicly available on the internet.
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Defendant knows that these allegations are false and made them intentionally, with

malice, and with total disregard for their truth or for the impact they may have on Kaveladze.
50.

As a direct and proximate result of the above-described conduct by Defendant,

Plaintiff has suffered general and special damages in an amount to be determined at trial in an

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amount in excess of the minimum jurisdiction of the Superior Court, including without limitation,

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damage to Plaintiff’s reputation, career, and standing in the community.

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51.

Upon information and belief, Plaintiff alleges that each Defendant’s conduct was

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done with oppression, fraud and malice and that, therefore, the conduct of each Defendant justifies

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an award of punitive and exemplary damages.

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52.

Upon information and belief, Plaintiff alleges that, unless enjoined and restrained by

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the Court, Defendant will republish, repeat and continue to disseminate the false and defamatory

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statements he made in the Chuck Todd Interview, and their implications and impressions, all to the

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continuing injury of Plaintiff; that such continued republication, repetition and dissemination of

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Defendant’s defamatory and offensive falsehoods will cause irreparable harm to Plaintiff by

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damaging his reputation and adversely affecting his career and business efforts as well as his

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personal relationships. Upon information and belief, Plaintiff alleges that he lacks an adequate

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remedy at law insofar as damages will be very difficult to calculate for such on-going injuries. By

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reason of the foregoing, Plaintiff is entitled to a permanent injunction enjoining and restraining

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Defendant, and all persons acting in concert with him, from republishing, repeating, distributing or

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otherwise disseminating the false defamatory statements he made in the Chuck Todd Interview.

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PRAYER
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for judgment against Defendant, as follows:
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COMPLAINT

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a.

For general damages according to proof;

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b.

For compensatory damages according to proof;

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c.

For special damages for pecuniary loss according to proof;

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d.

For punitive damages;

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e.

For an apology and retraction;

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f.

For a permanent injunction;

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g.

For pre-judgment interest as allowed by law;

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h.

For costs of suit; and

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i.

For such other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper.

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DATED:

January 30, 2018

H. MARC RUPP
HOWARD M. RUPP, APLC
SCOTT S. BALBER (Pro Hac Vice Application To Be Filed)
HERBERT SMITH FREEHILLS NEW YORK LLP

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By:
Attorneys for Plaintiff
IKE THOMAS KAVELADZE

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COMPLAINT


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