Don Lemon Assault Case Dropped by Accuser After 'Inner Reflection' and 'Deep Dive' into His Memory

Plaintiff Dustin Hice said in a statement that his "recollection of the events that occurred on the night in question... were not what I thought they were when I filed this lawsuit"

Don Lemon. Photo: John Lamparski/WireImage

An assault case against CNN anchor Don Lemon has been dropped by the plaintiff after going to trial in January.

Court documents dated Monday and obtained by PEOPLE — naming Lemon, 56, as the defendant and Dustin Hice as the plaintiff — state that the "action should be voluntarily dismissed with prejudice."

In a statement to PEOPLE via his attorney Robert Barnes, Hice said of the news: "After a lot of inner reflection and a deep dive into my memory, I have come to realize that my recollection of the events that occurred on the night in question when I first met CNN anchor Don Lemon were not what I thought they were when I filed this lawsuit. As a result, I am dropping the case."

Lemon's attorney, Caroline Polisi, also released a statement on Monday, which was obtained by The Hill, and called the lawsuit "a crass money grab from its inception"

"This has been a long and difficult journey for Don. Out of respect for the judicial process and my advice, he has had to remain silent in the face of a malicious and vulgar attack on his character," Polisi wrote. "Unfortunately, being a gay Black man in the media, he has had to deal with these sorts of attacks for quite some time ... The Court's ruling fully vindicates Mr. Lemon and brings an end to this abusive lawsuit."

Polisi did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Don Lemon CNN
Don Lemon. CNN

Lemon had emphatically denied the allegations laid out in the lawsuit — filed in August 2019 and stemming from an alleged July 2018 incident — which claimed that the anchor physically and verbally attacked Hice, a bartender, during a night out in the Hamptons in Long Island, New York.

In the lawsuit against Lemon, Hice, who was working as a bartender at The Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack, claimed he recognized Lemon during a night out with colleagues at Murf's Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor.

Hice claimed he offered to buy Lemon a cocktail, but the Emmy-winning journalist declined the gesture, telling Hice he was "just trying to have a good time."

The two had no further interaction until later that night, when Hice claimed Lemon approached him and "put his hand down the front of his own shorts, and vigorously rubbed his genitalia, removed his hand and shoved his index and middle fingers into [Hice's] mustache," the lawsuit alleged.

The account then claimed that Lemon had allegedly pressed Hice on his sexual preferences, asking, "Do you like p— or d—?" as he continued to shove his fingers into Hice's face with "aggression and hostility."

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A "shocked and humiliated" Hice said he left the bar after the "demeaning unprovoked and offensive assault," and Lemon was gone upon his return 5-10 minutes later.

In December, a legal decision found that Hice offered contradictory testimony during an earlier deposition about the case, and that he engaged in "egregious conduct" after filing his suit. That included selectively destroying text messages, deleting social media posts (including his entire Twitter account, just one week after his suit was filed), and concealing unfavorable witnesses.

The content and evidence Hice was said to have intentionally deleted or destroyed included social media posts and messages in which he alluded to paying a friend (and potential witness) if he won his court case, as well as text messages containing homophobic language and photos that show him near Lemon's home.

A CNN spokesperson previously alleged in a statement that Hice had lashed out against the network on social media, and had made extortion attempts against Lemon in the past. A source also previously told PEOPLE Hice's team asked Lemon for $1.5 million, a sum the anchor refused to pay.

"The plaintiff in this lawsuit has previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts," read the CNN statement, obtained by PEOPLE. "This claim follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon. Don categorically denies these claims and this matter does not merit any further comment at this time."

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