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Melania Trump Wins Early Round in Lawsuit Over Escort Story

Court shoots down arguments to dismiss libel complaint

First Lady Melania Trump scored a partial legal victory on Friday, with a judge shooting down arguments to dismiss the suit.

According to Politico, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Sharon Burrell disagreed with blogger Webster Tarpley’s contention that the suit failed to meet the standard for “actual malice” with regard to public figures.

The judge also rejected an argument by Tarpley’s lawyers that Trump’s suit runs afoul of Maryland’s SLAPP law, which aims to prevent lawsuits brought to intimidate others from speaking out on public matters.

Trump sued Tarpley and the Daily Mail in September, claiming that a story saying that Trump worked for a modeling agency where the models also worked as escorts inaccurately painted her as a sex worker.

“Plaintiff did legitimate and legal modeling work for legitimate business entities and did not work for any ‘gentleman’s club’ or ‘escort’ agencies,'” Trump’s lawsuit reads. “Plaintiff was not a sex worker, escort or prostitute in any way, shape or form.”

On Friday, Judge Burrell ruled in Trump’s favor.

“The court finds the plaintiff has stated a claim for defamation,” Burrell said. “The court believes most people, when they hear the words ‘high-end escort’ that describes a prostitute. There could be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute.”

Despite the partial early victory, Trump’s claims against the Daily Mail still hang in the balance. An attorney for Mail Media told the court that Maryland is an improper venue for the claims against the Mail. The attorney, Kelli Sager, also contended that Trump is aso suing the Daily Mail’s parent company in London over the escort article.

While those claims are still being weighed, Judge Burrell halted discovery proceedings against the Daily Mail, which retracted its story, possibly suggesting that the claims against the Mail could be dropped in the Maryland case.

Trump’s attorney had no comment for TheWrap on Friday’s ruling.

The First Lady is seeking damages “in an amount in excess of $75,000.”