A federal judge ruled Friday that Alex Jones and other online conspiracy peddlers cannot dismiss a defamation suit alleging that they invented damaging smears about a counter-protester at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally.
“Victims of vile conspiracy theories should take comfort in Judge Moon’s ruling that Brennan Gilmore’s defamation suit against InfoWars must proceed,” Andrew Mendrala, an attorney with Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, which helped bring the case, said in a statement. “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.”
Gilmore sued Jones, Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and several other far-right publishers for falsely labeling him as a “deep state” operative. They claimed that a video he captures and posted online of white supremacist Alex James Fields ramming his car into Heather Heyer was part of an elaborate, staged plot to undermine the Trump administration.
The defendants requested that the lawsuit be thrown out, claiming they were simply exercising their First Amendment right to share theories and opinions about the incident.
But in Friday’s ruling, Judge Norman Moon of Virginia’s Western District agreed with Gilmore that they knowingly published these false stories “with actual malice.”
Gilmore was a foreign service officer on leave at the time of the rally, and had previously donated to Democratic politicians. Far-right sites used these details as the basis to declare that he was a paid undercover operative helping to carry out an anti-Trump coup. Jones definitively stated that Gilmore was “high-level CIA,” had helped coordinate the chaos at Charlottesville, and that George Soros was paying him $320,000 a year.
According to Gilmore, these stories prompted death threats and doxxing. They damaged his career and caused great emotional distress, as he recounted to TPM last year.
The judge’s ruling caps off a bad 24 hours for Jones. Video was released of his deposition in a separate defamation case brought by the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Jones has maintained that the event was a false flag and that the grieving parents are crisis actors.
In the tapes, Jones contradicted himself, failed to answer basic questions, and refused to “take the responsibility” for the pain he caused the families bringing the case. He claimed a “form of psychosis” made him believe mass shootings like Sandy Hook were staged.
Read Judge Moon’s full ruling below.