Aaron Rich, the brother of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, has filed a lawsuit against media outlets and conspiracy peddlers for spreading false claims about the siblings.
During the presidential race in 2016, Seth Rich was shot to death in Washington, DC, in what police say was a robbery gone wrong. However, conservative conspiracy theorists and some media outlets implied that there were mysterious circumstances surrounding the death that involved the Democratic Party and WikiLeaks. One theory, for which there was no evidence, claimed Rich was killed for leaking DNC emails to the website.
Those named in the lawsuit include Ed Butowsky, a Texas businessman who hired an investigator to look into Rich's death, Matt Couch and his company, America First Media, and the Washington Times.
In August, Rod Wheeler, a private detective hired by Butowsky to investigate Rich’s death, sued Fox News and others, alleging the network "created fake news to advance President Trump’s agenda" when it ran a story on Rich in May that included made-up quotes. The ensuing conspiracy theories and fake news destroyed his reputation, he argued. Fox News has called for the suit to be dismissed.
Now, Aaron Rich is suing Butowsky and the media outlets over the suggestion that he and his brother participated in and covered up the alleged email leak.
The suit, filed this week in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Butowsky and Couch, along with America First Media and the Washington Times, promoted the false idea that Aaron Rich used his expertise as a defense contractor to help his brother leak DNC emails to WikiLeaks, was paid for his work, and concealed this behavior.
The suit cites a Periscope video from Aug. 15, 2017, in which Couch and Butowsky chat in the comments, stating, “Aaron Rich needs to come out and admit money in his account,” while claiming he accepted payment from WikiLeaks.
“Think about that. Aaron Rich had WikiLeaks money go into his personal account. Ok?” Couch is quoted as saying.
The suit also cites a piece in the Washington Times from March 2018, which stated it was “well known in intelligence circles” that the Rich brothers supplied WikiLeaks with the DNC emails in exchange for payment, citing no evidence.
According to the suit, the newspaper neither removed nor retracted the article following requests for correction.
Rich's lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the defendants "have relentlessly preyed upon Aaron Rich's family tragedy to enrich themselves, promote their own celebrity, and advance their political agenda."
"The defendants are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to spread vicious lies about an innocent man," Gottlieb added. "Those who defame and harass decent American citizens in an effort to advance their personal financial and partisan gain will be held accountable in court."
Reached for comment by CNN, Butowsky said he had no idea what Aaron Rich was talking about, adding, "I have nothing else to say, other than how many more family members do the Riches have that want to sue me?"
Earlier this month, Seth Rich’s parents sued Fox News and Butowsky for their participation in promoting the conspiracy theory around their son’s death.
A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Washington Times also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Couch said in a Periscope video addressing the new lawsuit and cited by CNN that he was "being sued for investigating the truth” and that he would subpoena the Rich family’s “phone records, the laptops, your cell phones.”