A man whose son was killed during the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School emerged victorious this week from a legal battle with conspiracy theorists who adamantly claim the massacre, which resulted in the deaths of 20 first-graders and six school employees, never happened.
A Wisconsin judge overseeing the defamation lawsuit ruled on Monday in favor of Lenny Pozner, a father whose 6-year-old son, Noah, was a victim of the shooting, and issued a summary judgment against James Fetzer and Mike Palacek, co-authors of a conspiracy theory book, the Associated Press reports.
Pozner’s lawyer, Jake Zimmerman, claimed that the book in question — “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook” — defamed Pozner by suggesting that his son’s death certificate had been falsified, among other things, according to the outlet.
“If Mr. Fetzer wants to believe that Sandy Hook never happened and that we are all crisis actors, even that my son never existed, he has the right to be wrong. But he doesn’t have the right to broadcast those beliefs if they defame me or harass me,” Pozner said, according to the Associated Press. “He doesn’t have the right to use my baby’s image or our name as a marketing ploy to raise donations or sell his products. He doesn’t have the right to convince others to hunt my family.”
Damages have yet to be awarded; a trial to decide the final amount is scheduled for October, according to the AP report.
In a separate settlement, the book’s publisher, Moon Rock Books, agreed to pull the offensive title, with principal officer Dave Gahary issuing an apology to Pozner on Monday, the outlet reports.
“My face-to-face interactions with Mr. Pozner have led me to believe that Mr. Pozner is telling the truth about the death of his son,” he said. “I extend my most heartfelt and sincere apology to the Pozner family.”
The case is one of many for Pozner, who is listed as the lead plaintiff in several federal and state cases that the families of Sandy Hook victims have filed against conspiracy theorists in Connecticut, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin in recent years, according to the Associated Press.
A number of suits involve Alex Jones, host of the controversial conspiracy theory website Infowars and who has long claimed that the tragic shooting was a hoax. Family members of the victims, including Pozner, banded together last year to file multiple defamation suits accusing the radio show host of causing “intense emotional anguish” by repeatedly claiming that the families were crisis actors participating in a widespread conspiracy, BuzzFeed reports.
Bill Ogden, a lawyer representing parents involved in both cases, told BuzzFeed News last year that Jones’ antics have made things hard on his clients.
“For the last five-and-a-half years since they have had to bury their children, Infowars and Alex Jones have repeatedly and continuously called them liars, called them crisis actors, and have made them re-live what they've had to go through. As a parent, it takes a toll on you,” Ogden said.
Jones changed his tune during a sworn deposition released in March, The Hill reports. He admitted then that “a lot of times things aren’t staged” and blamed his earlier statements that suggested otherwise on “a form of psychosis.”
The legal battle between Jones and the Sandy Hook families is ongoing, with lawyers for the plaintiffs recently claiming that child pornography was found in electronic files sent to them by Jones as part of the discovery process. An attorney for Jones said the pornography was in emails sent to his client that were never opened.
Jones responded by claiming he’d been set up and offering a million dollars to any one of his listeners who could find proof of that for him, according to BuzzFeed.
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