Convicted Jan. 6 Rioter is Suing CNN for $37 Million

 July 22, 2023

A lawsuit has been filed against CNN by Jacob Hiles, a convicted participant in the Jan. 6 riot, who alleges that the media corporation has defamed him.

Jacob Hiles, who earns a living as a charter boat captain in Virginia Beach, contends that an article by CNN reporting on criminal accusations levied against former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Michael Angelo Riley is an instance of “defamation per se” directed at him. Hiles faced multiple misdemeanor charges for his part in the Jan. 6 breach, a day when numerous supporters of Donald Trump violently subdued police and invaded the Capitol building, thereby interrupting the confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Hiles was entangled in the investigation of Riley due to messages the latter had sent, encouraging him to erase social media posts that could be linked to the riot. Law & Crime documented these developments.

Hiles Claims CNN Article Defamed Him Multiple Ways

The lawsuit filed by Hiles suggests that the CNN article defamed him in a minimum of three ways:

1. The article’s striking headline, placed halfway down the page, misleadingly asserts, “Man wanted to start ‘a revolution’ on January 6.”

2. It alleges that Hiles, a resident of Virginia, had traveled to Washington, DC with the idea of launching a “revolution,” a claim reportedly based on his social media posts.

3. The article mentions a Facebook post where he wrote, “Feeling cute…might start a revolution later,” and tagged his location as Capitol Hill.

Hiles Alleges CNN's Statements Have Caused Significant Damage

According to Hiles, these statements are inherently defamatory. He argues they wrongfully suggest that he was involved in criminal activities of a felonious nature, for which he was neither charged nor convicted. The allegations, he asserts, have injured his reputation.

In his complaint, Hiles states that the assertions wrongly ascribe to him the intention to topple an incumbent government. This, he emphasizes, is one of the most severe felonies in the U.S, even though he had been charged with only four Class B misdemeanors at the time of the publication.

Hiles had pleaded guilty to one nonviolent misdemeanor, leading to the dismissal of the other three charges.

Allegations of Misleading Reporting and Repercussions

The complaint further contends that CNN, despite acknowledging Hiles' guilty plea to a single nonviolent federal misdemeanor, continued to mislead their viewers. They allegedly portrayed Hiles as a violent revolutionary hellbent on instigating violence on January 6, 2021.

The CNN story, Hiles claims, has been viewed by countless people. He alleges that because of the article's publication, he has received numerous death threats. The U.S. Attorney's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he says, have been alerted to these threats.

During the fallout, Hiles' business also purportedly suffered significant losses. Hiles, who made headlines in 2021 by declaring that his charter boat company would not serve Democrats, asserts that his venture has been severely affected by CNN's defamatory remarks.

The Personal Impact of the Defamatory Article

The impact of the defamation has also extended to Hiles' personal life, as the lawsuit claims that his minor daughter has also experienced significant hardship due to CNN's defamatory actions.

The complaint states that she now fears for her safety, has lost numerous friendships, and has been subjected to ridicule by her teachers.

Despite these assertions, the complaint does not provide specific instances of the aforementioned damages. Hiles' legal counsel has not promptly responded to requests for comment on the matter from Law&Crime.

Details on Damages Sought and Legal Proceedings

Hiles is currently seeking $37 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. The lawsuit names not only CNN but also the three co-authors of the article as defendants.

The legal documents reveal that Hiles drove from his Virginia Beach residence to attend Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally, which was held just before Congress was set to confirm the election results. He was joined by a cousin from Ohio, and they both became part of the pro-Trump crowd that marched to the Capitol building.

The lawsuit was initially filed in Virginia state court but has since been transferred to the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. As of this time, CNN has not provided a comment on the lawsuit to Law&Crime.

  • Jacob Hiles, a participant in the Jan. 6 riot, has filed a lawsuit against CNN alleging defamation.
  • The lawsuit is related to a CNN article about criminal charges against former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Michael Angelo Riley, in which Hiles was implicated.
  • Hiles argues that the article painted him as a violent revolutionary, resulting in damage to his reputation and severe personal and professional repercussions.
  • Despite these serious allegations, the lawsuit doesn't provide specific instances of the claimed damages.
  • Hiles is seeking substantial compensatory and punitive damages from CNN and the co-authors of the story.

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