generated by the CIA for the government of South Africa to aid the Contras. According to plaintiff, whether or not a SAFAIR plane was used by Southern Air to deliver weapons to the Contras is immaterial because the story created the false impression that Southern Air leased South African airplanes pursuant to a scheme between the United States and the government of South Africa. Plaintiff states that the same material facts are in dispute as were in dispute in July of 1987 when the Court denied the motion for summary judgment. According to plaintiff, defendants fail to address the innuendo conveyed by the broadcast considered as a whole. In dispute, according to Southern Air, is whether it deliberately employed SAFAIR planes to deliver weapons to the Contras pursuant to an agreement between the United States and South African governments for South Africa to assist the Contras. The Court's July 30, 1987, memorandum stated: "If a SAFAIR plane was deliberately employed to supply weapons to the Contras, then a reasonable inference is that Southern Air played a role in deploying the South African plane." Southern Air contends that it did not "deliberately" employ SAFAIR planes to supply weapons to the contras. That contention, according to plaintiff, provides a genuine issue of material fact in dispute that precludes summary judgment.
The plaintiff also states that there is no evidence of any agreement between plaintiff and the South African government to transport weapons to the Contras. That lack of evidence, according to plaintiff, raises a disputed issue of whether there was a partnership between the South African government and Southern Air through which SAFAIR planes would be used to deliver weapons to the Contras. The movement of weapons, says plaintiff, has no bearing on the disputed issue of material fact of whether the Latin American chief at the CIA travelled to South Africa to discuss aid to the Contras prior to the time Southern Air's lease arrangement with SAFAIR took effect. Finally, plaintiff states that whether Southern Air was engaged in an illegal operation as described in the broadcasts remains a disputed issue of fact. Unless the defendants can show that Southern Air deliberately used the SAFAIR plane pursuant to a U.S.-South Africa scheme for Southern Air to lease planes from SAFAIR to fly weapons to the Contras, plaintiff maintains that the newly revealed information is irrelevant to this case.
The dispute over whether SAFAIR planes were used to fly weapons was critical to the Court's determination that summary judgment could not be granted. Two additional facts that remained in dispute in July are now uncontested: (1) the date of SAFAIR's incorporation; and, (2) the date of the lease between plaintiff and SAFAIR. When faced with the undisputed fact that a SAFAIR plane was used by plaintiff, with the plaintiff's chief executive officer on board, to ferry weapons from one Contra supply depot El Salvador to another within Honduras, plaintiff's case unravels. With this revelation, there is a reasonable inference that Southern Air played a role in deploying a South African airplane to supply weapons to the Contras.
Plaintiff misplaces its reliance on the Court's use of the word "deliberately" in its statement that if a SAFAIR plane had been deliberately used to supply weapons to the Contras, then a reasonable inference is that the plaintiff played a role in deploying the South African plane. The Court will not allow plaintiff to single out the word "deliberately" in resisting summary judgment. No language in the broadcast indicated a willfulness on the part of Southern Air in deploying the SAFAIR plane. Instead, the broadcast stated SAFAIR provided planes to Southern Air, pursuant to a lease agreement entered into on the same day it incorporated in New Jersey, and that those planes "were used to fly weapons to the Contras." There is an inference that the South African planes were used deliberately by Southern Air to deliver munitions to the Contras. But the affidavit of Mr. Langton, president of Southern Air, attesting that he was on the SAFAIR plane when it delivered the weapons to the Contras, relieves any doubt that Southern Air was aware that it had delivered weapons to the Contras. The fact that the president of Southern Air "did not think about the aircraft being a SAFAIR plane," but thought it was just another plane in plaintiff's fleet, does not preclude the conclusion that the plaintiff deliberately used a SAFAIR plane to deliver weapons to the Contras.
Upon reconsideration of this case, in light of the new facts presented to the Court, it now appears that there is a basis for the allegations in the story. Because of the truth of the statements made about Southern Air Transport in the ABC News broadcast, it is impossible to infer defamatory meaning from them. As a result, there is no need for this case to proceed to trial. Defendant's motion for reconsideration and its renewed motion for summary judgment are, therefore, granted. The Court denies the motion for sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Upon consideration of defendants' motion for reconsideration and renewed motion for summary judgment, plaintiff's opposition thereto, the arguments of counsel in open court, and the entire record in this case, and for the reasons stated in the accompanying memorandum, it is by the Court, this 25th day of January, 1988,
ORDERED that the motion for summary judgment be, and hereby is, granted; and it is further
ORDERED that defendants' motion for sanctions is denied.