Judge denies InfoWars request to dismiss lawsuit over Charlottesville rally

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP, WHSV) — UPDATE (March 29, 2019):

Photo: InfoWars

A federal judge has ruled against InfoWars founder Alex Jones' move to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by the counterprotester who posted video of James Alex Fields' deadly car attack in the Charlottesville white nationalist rally.

The suit, filed in March of 2018 by plaintiff Brennan Gilmore, alleges that Jones and his co-defendants damaged Gilmore by concocting conspiracy theories claiming that Gilmore was involved in the Aug. 12, 2017 car attack after he shared his video of the incident online.

Jones' lawyers claimed Gilmore is what's known as a "limited-purpose public figure," and as such must prove malicious intent, but Gilmore's attorney, Briana Gorod, sayid witnessing a moment in history doesn't make him a public figure.

On Friday, March 29, Judge Moon, with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, ruled that Gilmore's defamation suit can proceed.

“Victims of vile conspiracy theories should take comfort in Judge Moon’s ruling that Brennan Gilmore’s defamation suit against InfoWars must proceed," said Andrew Mendrala, Supervising Attorney with the Civil Rights Clinic at Georgetown Law. "Today’s decision shows that the law will protect victims of baseless lies by holding people like Alex Jones accountable for the harm they cause.”

The Constitutional Accountability Center at Georgetown Law is co-counsel for Gilmore.

Attorney Aaron Walker, who is representing several defendants, called the suit an abuse of the First Amendment.

"Many statements are very clearly opinion,” he said. “Often [there are] opinions you might find offensive, but the First Amendment doesn't just protect speech you agree with; it protects speech you disagree with."

Gilmore says he's lost friends and job opportunities and has received death threats. He says he filed the suit not only for himself but also to protect others.

"I just want to ensure that the next person who finds himself in that position, that they don't have to suffer the same injury that I suffered,” he said. “And that's why we're here today. We're looking forward to the process."

You can read the ruling in full here.

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ORIGINAL STORY (Nov. 14, 2018):

Attorneys for InfoWars founder Alex Jones want a judge to dismiss a defamation suit filed by a counterprotester at the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Former State Department official Brennan Gilmore was harassed after posting a video showing the car attack that killed counterprotester Heather Heyer after the Unite the Right rally. His attorney, Briana Gorod, says witnessing a moment in history doesn't make him a public figure.

But Jones' lawyers say Gilmore is what's known as a "limited-purpose public figure," and as such must prove malicious intent.

InfoWars attorney Andrew Grossman said YouTube removed two allegedly defamatory videos that he says used "obvious hyperbole" and shouldn't be taken seriously.

The suit, filed in March by plaintiff Brennan Gilmore, alleges that Jones and his co-defendants damaged Gilmore by concocting conspiracy theories claiming that Gilmore was involved in the Aug. 12, 2017 car attack after he shared his video of the incident online.

Judge Norman Moon is considering the arguments before issuing a ruling on the defense motions, and outside court after the hearing, attorneys for both sides explained their positions.

Attorney Aaron Walker, who is representing several defendants, called the suit an abuse of the First Amendment.

"Many statements are very clearly opinion,” he said. “Often [there are] opinions you might find offensive, but the First Amendment doesn't just protect speech you agree with; it protects speech you disagree with."

Gilmore's attorney Elizabeth Wydra disagreed.

“This is just something that is not acceptable,” she said. “It's not protected by the First Amendment, to make up lies about an everyday citizen who is contributing to meaningful civil discourse in this divided time by sharing his witness to history."

Gilmore says he's lost friends and job opportunities and has received death threats. He says he filed the suit not only for himself but also to protect others.

"I just want to ensure that the next person who finds himself in that position, that they don't have to suffer the same injury that I suffered,” he said. “And that's why we're here today. We're looking forward to the process."

The Daily Progress reports that other defendants say the defamation lawsuit violates their First Amendment rights.


Photo: Brennan Gilmore / Twitter