ZeRo, Former Roommate Jisu, Nearing Settlement in Defamation Lawsuit
The L.A. County Court has already struck three of ZeRo's allegations of defamation.
Former Super Smash Bros. pro Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios and his ex-roommate, Jacqueline “Jisu” Choe, are close to a settlement in a defamation lawsuit brought by Barrios regarding sexual misconduct allegations Choe made in 2020 and 2021, according to documents filed in Los Angeles County Court and obtained by The Jacob Wolf Report.
The disclosure of a potential settlement arose in a July 6 joint stipulation filed by both Barrios’ attorney, Jeffrey Lewis at Jeff Lewis Law, and Choe’s lawyer, Patricia H. Jun of Mortenson Taggart Adams, in which they asked the court for additional time for a motion regarding attorney’s fees.
“The parties have a settlement in principle that they are diligently working to memorialize into a written settlement agreement, but require an additional 30-day extension of time to finalize,” Lewis and Jun wrote in the July 6 filing.
As of Thursday, the attorneys had not filed a motion to dismiss the case, which would occur after a settlement. Lewis and Jun did not respond to requests for comment prior to the publication of this story.
Barrios first filed suit against Choe in November 2021. In his suit, he seeks damages from allegations she made in July 2020 and April 2021 that he had sexually abused and harassed multiple women, including her and others she spoke on behalf of.
Barrios and Choe previously lived together in a series of homes leased by YouTube celebrity Sky Williams. Once the best Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player in the world, Barrios practiced with other top competitors in that game who lived with Williams.
Choe, who was a minor when she moved into the home, told Dot Esports in February 2021 that she was the victim of grooming by an unnamed professional Super Smash Bros. Melee player—whom roommates later confirmed was Jesse “Vidjogamer” Werner, who also lived with Williams.
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On March 9, L.A. County judge Barbara A. Meiers struck three of Barrios’ allegations of defamation, stating that they were out of the statute of limitations per California emergency laws enacted in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. One allegation of the four was still admitted for the court to hear and decide on.
The three struck allegations—in which Choe claimed that Barrios had shown her pornographic content on a computer in their shared home, among other things—were made by Choe on Twitter on July 2, 3 and 5 of 2020. Per the emergency laws, though, Barrios failed to take legal action within the statute of limitations that expired on Oct. 1, 2021. Barrios filed suit on Nov. 19, 2021.
The final allegation concerns a tweet from Choe on April 28, 2021, in which she alleged that Barrios solicited sexually explicit pictures from a 14-year-old and offered to fly out another minor to a hotel for sexual acts. In response to the allegation, Barrios said the following:
“[Choe said] that I sought to fly a minor on a plane to meet me in a hotel for sexual gratification purposes,” Barrios wrote in a declaration previously filed with the court. “That statement was false. I have never asked a minor to fly on a plane to meet me in a hotel for sex.”
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Barrios did not refute the other part of Choe’s statement, that he had solicited pictures from a 14-year-old. In its March 9 ruling, the court said that Barrios did not adequately defend himself against Choe’s statement, but that it would give him “the benefit of a doubt” and hear the allegation in court. Choe denies all allegations of defamation against Barrios.
In the back-and-forth between attorneys, Choe’s lawyer, Jun, claimed that the standard for defamation against Barrios was higher, due to his notoriety as a professional video game player, and that Barrios’ allegations did not meet that standard.
In the July 6 filing, the court ruled that while Barrios was a celebrity in the niche community of gaming, his position is ultimately somewhere in the middle, and that because of the timing in which Choe made several of her allegations—the summer of 2020, a period in which many people accused prominent figures in gaming of sexual misconduct—that her allegations were in the public interest.
“Whatever notoriety [Barrios] had in the gaming or streaming communities, he obtained through intentional efforts to publicize himself and profit from his content. He was not known in these communities by mistake,” the court wrote. “Thus, to some extent, the plaintiff ‘invited attention and comment’ by injecting himself to the forefront of the gaming community. Nevertheless, [Barrios] is simply not well-known enough to be required to show actual malice as to defamatory statements concerning him regarding any subject, whether the statements are related to his gaming activities or not.”
The case is scheduled for a status conference with the court on Sept. 27, unless it is settled prior to that date.