Handing radio host Alex Jones a legal defeat, an Austin judge has ruled that a lawsuit can proceed that alleges that the prominent conspiracy theorist defamed the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
State District Judge Scott Jenkins denied Jones’ request to dismiss the lawsuit filed earlier this year by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of a child who was killed in the Connecticut school shooting that Jones, over the years, had suggested was a hoax.
“I’m expecting an appeal, but we’ll see in the next 30 days,” said Mark Bankston, the lawyer representing the parents, who took exception to Jones’ claim that they took part in a CNN interview in front of a studio blue screen presenting an image of Newtown, Conn., and not, as purported by CNN, in the city where the shooting took place.
Jones won a limited victory in a second defamation claim when Jenkins dismissed him from a lawsuit claiming that Jones’ InfoWars website published a photo of Marcel Fontaine that erroneously identified him as the shooter in the attack on a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 dead in February.
Fontaine’s lawsuit against InfoWars, however, can continue, Jenkins ruled.
Also Thursday, Jenkins presided over Jones’ motion to dismiss a third defamation lawsuit against Jones — this one by the father of another 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim.
That father, Neil Heslin, argues that Jones and his InfoWars website have engaged in a pattern of harassment and “defamatory lies” against parents of the slain children as part of a theory that the shooting at the Connecticut school was staged by the government to foster support for gun control.
Heslin’s lawsuit focuses on a 2017 report that questioned the father’s claim that he held his dead son and observed the bullet hole in his head.
“That is an outrageous and vile falsehood,” Bankston, who also represents Heslin, told Jenkins on Thursday. “This case is about a persistent lie in the InfoWars mythology about Sandy Hook.”
Heslin’s lawsuit also includes InfoWars reporter Owen Shroyer, who presented the report that questioned the father’s account.
Dallas lawyer Mark Enoch told Jenkins that Heslin’s lawsuit was part of wider campaign from Jones’ opponents to silence the controversial commentator — a campaign that gained steam after Jones gained the trust of President Donald Trump.
“This case is the point on the spear to make sure we end Jones’ voice in America,” Enoch said. “It is an all-out campaign to silence my client.”
Jones’ comments might be offensive to most people, but they were not defamatory, Enoch said.
“It is political speech. It’s often acerbic, offensive, hurtful, cutting, outrageous,” he said. “But political speech is at the core of free speech.”
Jenkins has about 30 days to rule on the motion to dismiss Heslin’s lawsuit.
Jones was not in court for the hearing.
According to Heslin’s lawsuit, Shroyer reported that it would have been impossible for Heslin to observe his son’s injuries, because the medical examiner in Connecticut did not allow families to view the bodies.
Heslin argues that the claim is based on a deceptively edited video of the medical examiner’s statements after the shooting that left 20 students and six adults dead.
In a court document, Heslin also said Jones’ characterization of the Sandy Hook attack as a hoax tarnished the final moments spent with his son’s body and the memory of a boy whom police called a hero for leaping from his desk, running at the gunman and shouting for his classmates to run only moments after his teacher had been shot and killed. The commotion allowed nine children to escape the classroom unharmed, the document said.