Lawyer sues over social media posts claiming he made racist remarks in social distancing tiff
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A Philadelphia lawyer has filed a defamation suit against a jogger and her cousin over their posts on social media about a confrontation over social distancing.
The argument happened March 31 after the jogger passed Josiah Knapp on the sidewalk, without moving over as he had done, according to Knapp’s April 9 lawsuit.
Law360 has coverage.
Knapp alleges that the jogger, Tess Wei, wrongly asserted on social media that Knapp yelled at her and coughed in her face during the dispute. The post was shared by Wei’s cousin, Peter Chau, who added another allegation in a revised post, the suit says.
Wei’s original post on Instagram read, “PHILLY! This man yelled at me and then came right up to me and coughed in my face. who tf is he?”
Chau shared the post and then added in a second Instagram post that Knapp told Wei to “go back where you came from.”
Knapp says he didn’t come right up to Wei, didn’t cough in her face, and didn’t tell her to go back where she came from.
As Knapp describes the incident, he was walking home after making a business deposit at his bank when he saw Wei jogging toward him. Knapp moved to the far-right side of the sidewalk, but Wei didn’t do anything to move to the opposite side, Knapp alleges. She passed within 2 or 3 feet of Knapp while breathing heavily from jogging, according to the suit.
After Wei passed him, Knapp remarked that she should have moved to the other side of the sidewalk. According to Knapp, Wei cursed at him, and they got into an argument. Wei allegedly asked Knapp whether he was afraid she would breathe on him and then threatened to do so. Wei took out her phone and started recording as Knapp walked away.
Knapp and his law firm were identified by name in comments to the second post, which ended up going viral on Facebook, Knapp says. He was subjected to ridicule and threats, according to the suit.
“Knapp is not a bigot; he did not engage in the highly offensive behavior of which he is accused by Wei and Chau; and he did not utter the racially charged and offensive statement attributed to him by Chau,” the suit says.
Knapp is represented by White and Williams in the suit, which was filed in Pennsylvania state court.
He is seeking at least $50,000 in damages along with an injunction requiring Wei and Chau to take down the posts and “take affirmative steps to correct the record.”
Knapp owns a boutique law firm in Philadelphia focusing on business and real estate law, corporate transactions and litigation.