In an 18-page long ruling, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, March 24 that Dustin Hice, who accused CNN host and Sag Harbor homeowner Don Lemon of assault and battery, must pay Lemon $77,119.33 in attorney fees and costs, according to court papers, which note Lemon asked to be granted $106,490.38. However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Locke reportedly denied Lemon’s request to dismiss the lawsuit entirely.
Locke based his ruling on Hice’s violation of court rules, which required him to disclose certain information from his cellphone, including text messages, photographs and videos for Lemon’s legal team during the discovery portion of the trial. More documents recently filed have brought the plaintiff’s credibility into question, and two witnesses originally for Hice have recanted testimony backing Hice’s accusations.
Court papers show one of the witnesses revealed damning texts that Hice had not submitted into evidence, defying the judge’s order. The substance of the texts included photographs and videos that Hice shared with the witness and others from August 2018, weeks after the alleged assault, depicting Hice and a friend “on Lemon’s property at night, rolling around and holding lemons over their genitals,” as well as texts from Hice, including one evidencing his desire to create shirts printed with an image of Lemon’s face and a crude phrase on them. Also among the texts was an August 17, 2018 photo showing Hice attempting to approach Lemon, and a video of Hice toasting Lemon on August 23, 2018, out of Lemon’s presence.
Another witness produced 225 previously undisclosed texts between himself and Hice, which fell in the period of requested disclosure, along with numerous photographs taken during the summer of 2018, court papers say, pointing out that these messages contained a conversation between the witness and Hice, where Hice discussed paying the witness if he had a favorable result from his lawsuit against Lemon.
Hice’s initial claim against Lemon involves a July 2018 night at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor. According to Hice’s lawsuit, on the night in question, Hice attempted to purchase Lemon a Lemon Drop cocktail, but the CNN anchor refused, noting he was “just trying to have a good time.” Following the refusal, Hice claims Lemon approached him, rubbed his genitals and asked a lewd sexual question while touching Hice’s mustache with his fingers.
The accuser’s lawsuit claims that he was “shocked and humiliated” by the alleged incident, which prompted him to leave Murf’s Backstreet Tavern, but his trauma continued after that night, leading to such emotional distress that he could no longer perform his job as a bartender — formerly at the Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack — or socialize. Hice is seeking unspecified damages.
Lemon has denied all of Hice’s allegations against him.