A lawsuit filed by a former Super Smash Bros. player and streamer who alleges a woman hurt his career with false social media statements should be dismissed on free-speech grounds, an attorney for the defendant argued Friday — but a lawyer for the plaintiff said his client was defamed.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara A. Meiers did not immediately rule on Jacqueline Choe’s anti-SLAPP motion and instead took the case filed by Gonzalo Barrios under submission.
The state’s anti-SLAPP — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — law is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
Barrios, known professionally as ZeRo, brought the suit on Nov. 19 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
But Choe’s lawyers state in their court papers arguing in favor of dismissal of the suit that ZeRo filed the case “to silence and punish Choe for speaking up about Barrios’ sexual misconduct with minors. Choe’s statements fall squarely within the ambit of constitutionally protected speech.”
The Chilean-born ZeRo, 26, was considered the best Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player in the world throughout his career, with a record-breaking 56 consecutive tournament wins in the game from November 2014 to October 2015.
According to his suit, Choe, now 23, in July 2020 drafted a document that was published and circulated throughout numerous social media outlets, including Dot Esports, Kotaku, Dexerto and ESPN.
The document included multiple falsehoods and “outright defamatory claims” against ZeRo and others that caused the termination of his Twitch account and his partnership with the organizations Tempo Storm and Facebook Gaming, the suit alleges.
In one allegedly defamatory tweet, Choe falsely said that ZeRo started dating his girlfriend when she was 15 and ZeRo was 20, the suit states. Accusing persons in the gaming industry of having inappropriate contact with minors is harmful to them in their profession, the suit states.
In another allegedly defamatory posting, Choe falsely accused ZeRo of “consistent physical abuse” of his girlfriend, according to the suit.
But in a sworn declaration, Choe says she met ZeRo when she was a minor in 2014 and that she lived with him and others in a Los Angeles home called the Sky House. One roommate, a male ex-gamer about a decade older than her, engaged her in a sexually abusive relationship, she says.
Choe says that while living at Sky House she found out that ZeRo, an adult, had a girlfriend who was a minor.
” I didn’t make up my statements about ZeRo and (his girlfriend),” Choe says. “I was told that they had an inappropriate age gap and that she was being physically abused in their relationship, and these accounts rang true to me because of what I myself had experienced while living in the Sky House.”
Choe also posted on Twitter a false statement that ZeRo showed her explicit Craigslist ads of sex workers, the suit states.
But according to Choe, ZeRo often called her over to his computer to show her anime porn and ads for sex workers that he found on Craigslist.