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Montana pastor apologizes to transgender activist, settles libel suit

Montana pastor apologizes to transgender activist, settles libel suit
Posted at 6:21 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 20:21:37-04

HELENA — A conservative pastor from Sidney has apologized and retracted an accusation against a transgender activist, as part of a settlement agreement resolving a defamation suit.

This week, Jordan “J.D.” Hall posted a statement on the website Montana Daily Gazette, a website he founded. In it, he admitted a statement in an earlier article that said Adrian Jawort had harassed a state senator was incorrect.

“I apologize to Adrian Jawort,” Hall said in the statement. “The information I published about Adrian was false. Adrian did not threaten or harass Senator Butch Gillespie. I regret the error and sincerely apologize to Adrian for publishing it.”

Last year, the Montana Daily Gazette posted an article including a claim that Jawort, of Billings, had “cornered” Gillespie at the State Capitol during the 2021 legislative session and that the senator had to be escorted to the sergeant at arms for protection. Jawort said that exchange never happened and sued Hall for libel.

The settlement agreement between the two sides required Hall to post the correction and update the original article.

In a statement to MTN, Jawort said the result was vindicating.

"Having my name dragged with libelous falsehoods of me essentially attacking an elderly Senator and harassing lawmakers was already a dangerous situation to me as a transwoman with a political target on my back,” she said. “But then to see him use these falsehoods as a grift to tour the state with anti-LGBTQ rallies and claim his free speech was being violated? That was a surreal experience meant to cower LGBTQ folks, and we have to hold those accountable who supported such tactics for political gain."

Matthew Monforton, an attorney who represented Hall in the libel case, said Hall declined to comment beyond what was included in the settlement agreement.

Jawort’s suit was put on hold earlier this year, when Hall filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The settlement agreement says Jawort may file a claim and receive whatever part of Hall’s “bankruptcy estate” she’s found to be entitled to. After that, she will move to dismiss the defamation case.

The settlement agreement also says Jawort will not pursue sanctions against Hall in Cascade County district court, though the judge could take further action independently. Jawort’s attorneys had asked Judge Elizabeth Best to sanction Hall, accusing him of making threats and taking other public actions to “disrupt and undermine the proceedings.”