LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A judge on Monday dismissed David Beckham's $25 million libel lawsuit against a celebrity magazine that ran an article saying the married, British soccer star slept with a call girl.
U.S. District Judge Manuel Real said Beckham, whose wife Victoria was a member of the Spice Girls singing group, is a public figure and claims of adultery against him are of interest to the public.
Real also said there was no evidence In Touch Weekly magazine exhibited malice when it published the story about the L.A. Galaxy player, which is key because under U.S. law, evidence of malice is an important benchmark for winning a libel lawsuit.
Beckham has declared in court papers that he never met Irma Nici, the $10,000 per-night New York call girl originally from Europe, who was quoted in the story saying she slept with him in New York and London.
Attorneys for Beckham said they will appeal Real's decision and continue their fight against U.S.-based In Touch and its owner, Bauer Publishing Company.
"They have not provided one shred of evidence to support the claim this story is true," a spokesman for Beckham's attorneys said in a statement. "David Beckham's clear evidence proved that this is without foundation."
"Unfortunately, the U.S. legal system requires us to show that the magazine acted maliciously," the statement said.
Beckham said in court papers that in September 2007 when, according to the In Touch article he met Nici for sex in London, he was never with her but was attending to his sick father who had suffered a heart attack.
An In Touch editor declared in court papers that Nici claimed during an interview that Beckham seemed downcast when she met him in London, because his father was sick.
In Touch sought to corroborate Nici's story of an affair with Beckham by speaking to other people apart from Nici, such as her madam, the company said in court papers.
But In Touch did not ask the judge to rule on the truth or falsity of the article, said its attorney, Elizabeth McNamara. Instead, it sought to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the magazine did not act maliciously.
"We're very pleased with this decision, we think the court correctly applied the law in dismissing the action against the publisher," McNamara said.
An appeal by Beckham's attorneys would go to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In their $25 million libel lawsuit filed last fall, Beckham's attorneys also named Nici as a defendant.
Beckham, 35, and Victoria have been married for 11 years. They have three children and are awaiting the birth of their fourth child later this year.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte