On December 20th, a Texas district court judge ordered Alex Jones to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees in a defamation suit brought by the father of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. The defamation suit brought by Neil Heslin is one of several suits filed against Jones by the families who lost children in the school shooting on December 14, 2012.
“We went in thinking we had to prove that the death certificate was real. We ended up having to prove not only that, but that a little baby was born to these two parents,” Pozner’s attorney, Jacob Zimmerman, told First Amendment Watch.
A Wisconsin judge ruled that the co-editors of a book that claimed that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax were guilty of defamation. Following the December 2012 mass shooting, James Fetzer and Michael Palecek published a book, “Nobody Died At Sandy Hook: It was a FEMA Drill to Promote Gun Control,” claiming that the federal agency had staged the event to promote gun control. The book also claimed the Leonard Pozner, the father of the youngest Sandy Hook victim, was complicit in the conspiracy, and had fabricated his son’s death certificate.
People whose reputation has been harmed by a publication may decide to sue for libel. In today’s highly charged political environment, a number of high-profile libel suits have been filed as a result of public controversies. Among them, Sandy Hook Elementary School parents sued Alex Jones and Infowars; coal mogul Robert Murray sued Last Week Tonight host John Oliver; Stormy Daniels, a porn star, sued Donald Trump; and a woman who claimed Bill Cosby assaulted her sued him for libel. Sandy Hook parents, who suffered the trauma of losing their children to a mass murderer, and their lawsuit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, provides a compelling case study for teaching defamation law.