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Judge won't reconsider ruling against Ann Rule

A judge in Washington state has denied a motion to reconsider a February ruling that dismissed Ann Rule's defamation case against an Eagle Creek man who criticized the revered true-crime author in a Seattle newspaper article.

King County Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen on Thursday, April 10, denied the motion filed last month by Rule’s attorney Anne Bremner asking that Inveen reconsider her Feb. 25 ruling in favor of local resident Rick Swart.

In her February ruling, Inveen dismissed Rule’s lawsuit against Swart, a free-lance writer, as well as two other defendants, and ordered Rule to pay each of them $10,000 in statutory damages. The other defendants include the newspaper’s former editor and Village Voice Media, which owned the paper when the article was published.

Rule’s attorney also has appealed the ruling in which the judge cited Washington state’s anti-SLAPP statute that protects against lawsuits intended to punish free speech.

The defamation suit stems from Swart’s article titled “Ann Rule’s Sloppy Storytelling” that Seattle Weekly published in 2011. In the article, Swart criticized Rule’s book about Liysa Northon, an Oregon woman who was convicted of killing her husband Chris Northon during a 2000 camping trip in Eastern Oregon.

Rule said Swart’s article damaged her stellar reputation as a best-selling true-crime writer, and sued Swart, the newspaper editor who published the article and the newspaper’s parent company.

Swart contended that Rule’s 2003 book about the case, “A Heart Full of Lies,” falsely painted Northon as a sociopathic killer, when she was really a battered woman who acted in self-defense.

Two days after the article ran, Swart admitted that Northon was his fiancée. They married nearly two months later at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, where Northon was serving 12 years in prison for pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Northon has since been released after serving her sentence and now lives in rural Eagle Creek with Swart.