Billy Mitchell Sues Twin Galaxies for Defamation Over Disqualified Donkey Kong Record

Billy Mitchell Donkey Kong

Billy Mitchell has sued Twin Galaxies for defamation, for allegedly suggesting he cheated when they removed his record on Donkey Kong.

For those unfamiliar, Billy Mitchell had attempted the world record of being the first person to achieve 1 million points in the Donkey Kong arcade machine. However, Twin Galaxies (a website and business dedicated to recording achievements of gamers) retracted his title in 2018. 

This was due to the footage of the high-score attempt producing board transition images” that should have been impossible on an unmodified arcade machine. The use of emulation software or MAME was suspected.

Ultimately Twin Galaxies (and the Guinness Book of World Records) ruled that Mitchell’s attempt was invalidated due to the abnormalities in how points were scored. Twin Galaxies also banned Mitchell from submitting other record breaking attempts in the future.

Now, Ars Technica reports that Mitchell is suing Twin Galaxies for defamation. Having obtained court filings, Ars Technica reports that this was filed as early as April 2019.

While misfiled as William James Mitchell vs. Twin Galexies, LLC [sic], the case is building to an anti-SLAPP hearing (Strategic lawsuit against public participation) in July. Twin Galaxies’ court filings state that their statement was not defamatory, and that ruling in Mitchell’s favor “would have chilling effects on the freedom of speech.”

Mitchell confirmed to Ars Technical that the lawsuit was filed late April 2019 to still be within California’s statute of limitations on defamation (which would have run out one year after the April 2018 statement). The court records state case was officially served in February 2020, and updated in March.

Mitchell told Ars Technica “My law firm and I are fully confident that we will establish a prima face [sic] case for all parts of the lawsuit.” Prima facie, in legal terms, is where one party must meet the burden of proof by presenting evidence for all facts in the face.

In the amended complaint, Mitchell claims that Twin Galaxies’ statement was “libelous on its face” for implying that Mitchell cheated. It claims Twin Galaxies “at least implied [that he was a cheater], so that any reasonable reader would understand Twin Galaxies has called Mitchell a cheater who deserved punishment by stripping him of all his Twin Galaxies records and banning him for life from submitting further records.”

The lawsuit also claims that Twin Galaxies were intentionally biased in their investigation, in order to generate publicity and internet traffic to their website “by accusing Mitchell, the most visible of all video gamers, of cheating.” 

Mitchell also claims Twin Galaxies refused to consider 25 sword affidavits from eyewitnesses (including the founder of Twin Galaxies Walter Day), focusing purely on “scientific” evidence.

Twin Galaxies representatives reportedly did not respond to a request for comment from Ars Technica. However, in the March 30th anti-SLAPP motion, Twin Galaxies lawyers state that the websites’ statement was not legally defamatory, and “nothing more than the opinion of Twin Galaxies.” Mitchell’s case would also need to prove Twin Galaxies acted with “actual malice.”

“I personally harbor no animosity or ill will toward Billy Mitchell,” Twin Galaxies owner Jason Hall stated in a legal public declaration. “I am indifferent one way or another whether his Donkey Kong or other scores appear on the Twin Galaxies Website leaderboards. My only concern is to maintain the integrity of the leaderboards.”

Ars Technica reports that after a lengthy investigation and (in Ars Technica’s words) “thousands of dollars in equipment and salaries to adjudicate,” Twin Galaxies could not replicate the images and artifacts in Mitchell’s video. Twin Galaxies motion also takes issue with Mitchell not submitting evidence in support of his case until after Twin Galaxies had come to their decision.

The anti-SLAPP motion will go to court on July 6th.

Image: Wikipedia [1, 2]

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Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.