California’s Devin Nunes drops lawsuit against Ben Meredith

Former Rep. Devin Nunes has dropped his lawsuit against a constituent whom he said inspired a cyber-stalking campaign against him and was married to the so-called Twitter cow that teases him online.

It ends the seventh of 10 lawsuits the former congressman filed from 2019 through 2021 against media organizations and critics that Nunes alleges have defamed or conspired against him. Judges have dismissed cases and denied appeals.

Nunes failed to produce evidence of how Ben Paul Meredith had stalked or harassed him online through various Twitter accounts, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California wrote last month in dismissing case.

Judge Jennifer L. Thurston wrote that the only physical evidence Nunes offered “undermines rather than corroborates his claim” of online harassment.

She left the door open, however, for Nunes to revive the stalking claim if he could provide evidence. Otherwise, she agreed with Meredith’s motion to dismiss under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which discourages the use of frivolous lawsuits to silence criticism and can leave plaintiffs liable for defendants’ legal fees.

On Wednesday, Nunes and Meredith agreed to drop the case, with each side bearing costs.

Nunes’ lawyers, Steven Biss and Derek Wisehart, pointed to unfounded claims that Meredith was married to the writer of the anonymous Twitter account “Devin Nunes’ cow.” Nunes is attempting to sue the individual in Virginia but can not serve them, Biss told the court, because he does not know who the person is.

Biss and Wisehart claimed that the connection between Meredith and the cow — a woman named on a website allegedly created by an intern for a one time Democratic challenger for Nunes’ seat — made him culpable for an anonymous harassment campaign.

Thurston said while the law “requires the Court to take facts in the light favorable to the plaintiff and make reasonable inferences, it does not require the Court to make illogical leaps.”

Meredith’s lawyer declined to comment. Biss and Wisehart did not respond to a request for comment.

Nunes v. Meredith

The former congressman sued Meredith, once a constituent, in Tulare in October 2020. Nunes claimed that Meredith used a “network of anonymous Twitter accounts” to stalk him “24 hours, every day” while posting threats and personal information and encouraging others to harass him. In his complaint, Nunes drew on the example of someone “mooing” at him on a plane, in reference to @DevinCow and the Virginia lawsuit.

Nunes also named Twitter in the suit against Meredith, saying the company allowed him to inspire a widespread harassment campaign, but later dropped the tech giant. A judge in Virginia told him repeatedly that he could not sue Twitter over what people wrote on the platform.

Meredith, who now lives in Washington state, had the case moved to the U.S. District Court in Fresno in January 2021. The lawsuit was delayed during the pandemic, when the federal court was short staffed and overworked. Thurston was appointed to the bench at the end of December 2021.

In trying to connect “Devin Nunes’ cow” to Meredith, Nunes’ lawyers provided a screenshot of website “janztrolls” that claims a woman named Michelle Emmett was the owner of @DevinCow. The website claims it was created by a former campaign intern of Andrew Janz, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran against Nunes for Congress in 2018. It included an alleged tweet from the intern, Yasmin Mendoza, that said Emmett was @DevinCow.

In a sworn affidavit offered in support of Meredith, Mendoza said she never posted that tweet and that it was never on her account. She said that the tweet was untrue.

Nunes’ lawyers had also included a screenshot of Emmett’s personal Twitter account and claimed that Meredith tagged Emmett in “innumerable tweets” about Nunes. The legal team claimed that Emmett and Meredith were married based on something he found in “Whitepages,” Thurston wrote.

Nunes did not submit any of those “innumerable tweets” nor showed evidence that tied Meredith to Emmett, Thurston wrote. Meredith would not be liable for the work of a spouse anyway, she added.

Nunes v. Cow

Nunes is still attempting to sue the writers behind @DevinCow and another writer of a Twitter account that parodies the congressman’s mother in a Virginia court.

Biss told that court that he does not know the identity of the people behind “Devin Nunes’ cow” and “Devin Nunes’ Alt-Mom” and thus cannot serve them with a complaint. Twitter has refused to identify them.

Nunes, who represented the area around Fresno and Tulare for nearly two decades, has continued this and other lawsuits despite leaving Congress. He resigned in January 2022 to lead former President Donald Trump’s social media company, Truth Social, which mimics Twitter.

Nunes started a legal crusade against critics and media organizations in 2019, the first of which was against @DevinCow and @NunesAlt.

Many cases have ended in dismissal or failed appeals.

Nunes is still suing the parent company of MSNBC, The Washington Post and a magazine that wrote about his family’s Iowa dairy farm.

Judges have dismissed cases against Twitter, a Republican strategist, the compiler of the so-called Steele Dossier, The Post in a different lawsuit and CNN. Nunes dropped suits against McClatchy, which owns The Bee, and constituents who called him a “fake farmer.”

Related stories from Fresno Bee

Gillian Brassil is the congressional reporter for McClatchy’s California publications. She covers federal policies, people and issues that impact the Golden State from Capitol Hill. She graduated from Stanford University.

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