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Attorneys for Glenn Beck ask judge to toss suit tied to Boston bombing

Radio and television personality Glenn Beck speaks to a gathering at FreePAC Kentucky at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky April 5, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/JOHN SOMMERS II
Radio and television personality Glenn Beck speaks to a gathering at FreePAC Kentucky at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky April 5, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/JOHN SOMMERS II

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Attorneys for U.S. television commentator Glenn Beck on Monday asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit charging their client with defamation for wrongly accusing a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing of being the "money man" behind the attack.

The plaintiff, Saudi Arabian national Abdulrahman Alharbi, 21, had been present at the race's crowded finish line on April 15, 2013, when two homemade pressure-cooker bombs ripped through the crowd and was injured.

He was briefly investigated by federal authorities who concluded within days that he played no role in the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. Federal prosecutors now contend that a pair of ethnic Chechen brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, carried out the bombing.

Attorneys for Beck and his media company, The Blaze Inc, argued that by granting interviews to media outlets after being cleared of suspicion by federal officials, Alharbi made himself a "limited purpose public figure" subject to higher levels of scrutiny than a private citizen.

"The fact that Mr. Alharbi said what he said and availed himself of the opportunity to inject himself into this controversy in an attempt to shape the debate is not a fact that can be denied," attorney Michael Grygiel said during a hearing at U.S. District Court in Boston.

Alharbi's attorney, Peter Haley, said that Beck showed malice by continuing to claim the Saudi exchange student was responsible for the attacks even after he was cleared.

"All of the statements that we're focused on come after the point of exoneration," Haley said. "They're statements Mr. Beck has reason to know are false ... he continues to make them with reckless disregard to truth or falsity."

Chief Judge Patti Saris said she would consider the request but noted, "I'd be surprised if I resolved this in a motion to dismiss."

Neither Beck nor Alharbi attended Monday's hearing.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a gun battle with police three days after the bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on the evening of April 19, 2013, hiding in a boat in someone's back yard.

He is awaiting trial and faces the threat of execution if found guilty of carrying out the attack.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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