By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that actor Alec Baldwin’s New York attorney can represent him in Wyoming in the $25 million defamation lawsuit filed against Baldwin by the family of a Wyoming man killed in action in Afghanistan.
Judge Kelly Rankin approved a request that attorney Luke Nikas, who is not licensed to practice law in Wyoming, be allowed to represent Baldwin in the case.
Nikas holds a degree from Harvard Law School and his practice areas range from media and entertainment litigation to art litigation.
Nikas has represented Baldwin in other cases, most recently regarding the actor’s accidental shooting and killing of a cinematographer and injuring of the director on the film set, “Rust.” Baldwin has been named in several lawsuits regarding the incident, in which he was practicing for a scene that required him to draw a gun.
Baldwin has claimed no legal responsibility for the cinematographer’s death.
In the Wyoming case, Baldwin is accused of defaming multiple members of Rylee McCollum’s family on Instagram. McCollum was the U.S. Marine from Jackson who was killed as the United States was pulling out of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Three attorneys from the Cheyenne law firm Long, Reimer and Winegar have submitted notices to the court that they will be Baldwin’s local counsel.
Roice and Cheyenne McCollum, the sisters of Rylee McCollum, and his widow Jiennah McCollum are asking for damages of at least $25 million in the lawsuit filed in January.
According to the lawsuit, Baldwin first contacted the McCollum family in August, sending Rylee’s sister Roice McCollum a check for $5,000 to help Rylee’s wife and child.
The check was “a tribute to a fallen soldier,” Baldwin told Roice.
Court documents state that on Jan. 3, Roice posted a photo on her Instagram page that she took on Jan. 6, 2021, showing a crowd of demonstrators at the Washington Monument. Roice posted the photo, the lawsuit said, in anticipation of the 1-year anniversary of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol.
While Roice attended a demonstration in Washington, D.C., in support of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, she was not involved in the subsequent invasion of the U.S. Capitol and while she was later interviewed by the FBI, she was never accused of or charged with a crime.
Baldwin commented on Roice’s posting, asking, “Are you the same woman I sent the $ for your sister’s husband who was killed during the Afghanistan exit?”
Upon confirmation that she was the sister of Rylee McCollum, Baldwin sent private messages Roice and accused her of being an insurrectionist.
“When I sent the $ for your late brother, out of real respect for his service to this country, I didn’t know you were a January 6th rioter,” Baldwin wrote in one message.
Roice responded by telling the actor that protesting was legal in the United States and that she had already spoken with the FBI, but he persisted, according to the lawsuit.
“Your activities resulted in the unlawful destruction of government property, the death of a law enforcement officer, an assault on the certification of the presidential election. I reposted your photo. Good luck,” Baldwin wrote back.
Baldwin later claimed on social media that he was trying to point out irony in his reposting of her photo, by juxtaposing her brother’s sacrifice for the country with Roice being an “insurrectionist.”
Baldwin reposted Roice’s photo on his own Instagram account, which has 2.4 million followers, discussing the Capitol attack and mentioning Roice’s involvement in the protest on Jan. 6, 2021.
Within 20 minutes of his post, Roice began to receive hostile, aggressive and hateful messages from Baldwin’s followers, the lawsuit said.
One message said “Get raped and die, you worthless [expletive]. Your brother got what he deserved.” Roice forwarded this message on to Baldwin, sarcastically thanking him for the post.
Baldwin ultimately followed the person who sent the message on Instagram. He also chimed in on the feed, calling Roice an insurrectionist and claiming she participated in the riot.
He also misidentified Jiennah as an insurrectionist in one Instagram comment, although she was not in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. People began sending hateful and threatening messages Jiennah and Cheyenne McCollum, Rylee’s eldest sister, the lawsuit said.
Other messages called on Baldwin to get a refund of his money and comparing the McCollum family to ISIS and Nazis.
Baldwin did nothing to stop his followers from contacting the family, the lawsuit said.
“Baldwin’s conduct was negligent and reckless as he should have known that making the allegations he did against Plaintiffs to his millions of followers would cause Plaintiffs harm,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims the three women have suffered from headaches, nausea, loss of sleep, severe anxiety, mental distress and fear for their lives due to Baldwin’s post.
The lawsuit seeks damages for all three women on allegations of defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress