Family of fallen Marine sue actor Baldwin over posts
CASPER — The sisters and widow of a Wyoming Marine killed in Afghanistan are suing Alec Baldwin in federal court, alleging the actor defamed them on his social media after he learned one of the sisters attended a demonstration in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.
Rylee McCollum, a 20-year-old Marine from outside of Jackson, was one of 13 American troops and more than 100 Afghans killed in August by a suicide bomb at the Kabul airport.
After hearing the news of McCollum’s death, Baldwin found one of the Marine’s sisters, Roice, on Instagram and sent her a $5,000 donation to go towards his widow, Jiennah Crayton, and their child born less than a month after his death, court documents state.
Then, this month, Baldwin accused Roice of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 riots as an “insurrectionist,” reposting her pictures of demonstrations that day to his account that allegedly caused the McCollum sisters and Crayton to receive harmful messages including death threats. Now, the women are suing Baldwin for $25 million, nearly half of his apparent net worth, on allegations of defamation and violating their privacy.
On Jan.1, Roice McCollum posted images on Instagram showing demonstrators in D.C. with the caption “Throwback,” showing that she had attended a protest of the presidential election results on Jan 6, 2021, according to the complaint. The suit states she did not take part in the riots that followed the demonstration, and has been cleared after an interview with the FBI.
Neither Crayton nor McCollum’s other sister, Cheyenne, were reportedly at the capitol on Jan. 6.
The complaint, filed Monday in federal court, states that Baldwin commented on the Instagram post from his account, saying, “Are you the same woman that I sent the $ to for your sister’s husband who was killed during the Afghanistan exit.” That comment appears to have been deleted.
Screenshots included in the lawsuit show Baldwin later messaging Roice McCollum privately, accusing her of being a “January 6th rioter” and saying that her actions resulted in property destruction and the death of an officer. According to the same exhibits, McCollum responded that she was protesting legally and had already met with the FBI.
“I reposted your photo,” Baldwin messaged her, according to the complaint. “Good luck.”
In Baldwin’s repost of McCollum’s photos, he said that claims of a non-violent protest at the Capitol that day were “bulls***” and commented that “truth is stranger than fiction” in reference to seeing the photos. He also stated he would take the post down the next day. It was not available on Tuesday.
The suit states that McCollum was quickly subjected to “hostile, aggressive, hateful” messages and comments from Baldwin’s 2.4 million followers. One message, which she posted to her account, said: “Get raped and die, worthless c*** (kiss emoji). Your brother got what he deserved.”
McCollum’s sister and Crayton also received harmful messages and comments, the suit states, some equating them to ISIS or Nazis or hoping Baldwin would get his donation returned. Their attorney, Dennis Postiglione, said that there are “600, 700 more pages worth of posts” not included in the initial filing that make the comments cited in the complaint seem “tame.”
Postiglione and California lawyer Joseph Casas are set to represent Crayton and the McCollums, with the backing of local attorney Frank Chapman.
The suit calls Baldwin’s comments “false, outrageous, defamatory, irresponsible, vindictive,” and alleges that the backlash caused the McCollum sisters and Crayton “severe emotional distress” and to fear for their lives.
Messages not referenced in the complaint included death threats to all three plaintiffs, their lawyer said.
In comments on the platform, the suit states, Baldwin said at least twice that Roice McCollum was an insurrectionist.
Postiglione said that in talking to Crayton and the McCollums, it’s clear that the comments “really shook them up beyond what they already were.” While he says the messages have “slowed down,” the three women are still receiving some.
Baldwin, known for acting in dozens of films and, more recently, his parodic portrayal of Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” has long used his social media to voice his political views and to encourage followers to support causes he promotes, the suit cites. The complaint argues that since his politics are so prominent online, it’s safe to assume that most of Baldwin’s followers agree with him. The suit also states that Baldwin “did nothing” to discourage the comments or messages after making the post.
“I think it’s worth noting, too, that his social media following ... is five times the population of your state,” Postiglione said. “Either he knew what would happen, and he wanted it to happen, or he just didn’t think about it.”
The plaintiffs are calling for a jury trial in the case, which would determine the amount of any damages if awarded. Most cases of this kind never see a trial, and are often settled out of court.
“If I were to try any case in my portfolio,” Postiglione said Tuesday, “I would love to put this in front of a Wyoming jury.”