Defamation suit against Cowboys’ Jones refiled

A woman who says she is the daughter of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones refiled a defamation case Tuesday against the billionaire and two associates, alleging that they hatched a plan to portray her as an “extortionist.”

Federal Judge Robert W. Schroeder III last month tossed out much of the defamation lawsuit filed by Alexandra Davis, a 26-year-old congressional aide, against Jones, his longtime personal lawyer Donald P. Jack and Jim Wilkinson, a communications consultant for the Jones family.

Davis originally sued Jones in March 2022 to seek recognition as his biological daughter. Her defamation claim this past March accused Jones and his representatives of waging a public campaign that attacked her character “based knowingly on false statements and accusations.”

In his 36-page order, Schroeder said he determined that some of the alleged defamatory statements about Davis, published in two ESPN stories about the case, were either true or were “not defamatory.” He also ruled that Davis qualified as a “limited public figure” and as such had failed to make a valid claim of actual malice, a requirement under defamation law.

However, the judge gave Davis’ lawyers an opportunity to refile their complaint about comments that appeared in one of the two ESPN stories, published March 31, 2022. That new complaint alleges Wilkinson and Jack falsely accused Davis “of being an extortionist and portrayed Plaintiff as attempting to ‘shakedown’ Defendant Jones.”

“Throughout their smear campaign against Plaintiff, Defendants either knew the statements being made by them were false or they knew enough facts such that they should have entertained serious doubts as to the truth of their defamatory statements,” the new complaint alleges.

Wilkinson said Jones had no comment after the defamation suit was dismissed last month, and Wilkinson declined to comment. Jack, of Little Rock, Arkansas, could not be reached.

The latest filing alleges that the defendants “were additionally closely working with” ESPN reporter Don Van Natta Jr., who wrote stories on the case. The claim says defendants also worked with other media “to ensure all news outlets reported the statements Defendant Wilkinson had given to Van Natta.”

Multiple ESPN stories about the paternity claims included comments from representatives of Jones and Davis, including repeated statements by Davis attorneys Andrew A. Bergman and Jay K. Gray denying that the woman was part of any effort to exploit the Cowboys’ owner.

The new claim also says Jones and his associates attempted to link Davis in a “‘conspiracy’ with others supposedly attempting to extort money from the Jones family,” including four Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, whom Jones paid a $2.4 million secret settlement after a senior team executive was accused of videotaping them undressing in their locker room in 2015.

The senior executive, Richard Dalrymple, called the allegations false in a statement but retired in February 2022, just before ESPN reported on the Cowboys’ secret settlement. The report, written by Van Natta, was followed weeks later by Davis’ initial claims against Jones.

Davis’ new complaint is the latest development in a rancorous dispute that has played out in courts and in the media over the alleged motivations behind her decision to ask a court last year to be recognized as Jones’ daughter. In her lawsuit seeking to establish paternity, Davis asked to be released from the confidentiality agreement her mother agreed to when she was a baby. Last December, the court ordered Jones to submit to a paternity test that has been delayed.

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