I have a working knowledge of criminal law but no real need to know much about civil law.
I heard about an incident recently that made me think of this question. I am in no way involved. I’m curious about the principal. I’ll simplify the scenario for the purposes of this thread.
Bob committed a criminal act. He was arrested. The facts of the case are not in dispute. He was caught red handed and there were witnesses. Because Bob had a clean record he was offered pre-trial intervention. If he stays clean for a year the charges go away and it doesn’t show up as a conviction. He completes PTI and the charges go away. His name is still on all of the police reports which are public record. After several years of clean living Bob petitions the court to have his record expunged. The request is granted. His name is removed from all reports both paper and electronic. His finger prints are removed from the database. As far as the government is concerned it never happened.
Many years later Joey gets into a heated discussion with Bob on social media which is open to the public. Joey reveals the details of Bob’s arrest. Joey isn’t in law enforcement. He is not connected to the government at all. He was a witness to the original arrest. He knows for certain what happened because he was there. When Bob sees the post he threatens to sue for libel.
I know truth is the defense against libel/slander but how about in this case? Joey knows what he knows but the government says it officially didn’t happen. Does Bob have a case for libel?
Would it make a different if Joey was a friend or family member of a witness and he was just repeating what he was convinced is true? Would it matter if he could produce a firsthand witness or not?
Would it make a difference if Joey gained his knowledge through his employment with a government agency?