Civil and Human Rights

Appeals court says Charlottesville lawsuit against InfoWars can continue

A defamation lawsuit against InfoWars and other far-right blogs will move forward after the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition from various defendants challenging its venue.

Brennan Gilmore, an activist and former U.S. Foreign Service officer, sued Alex Jones, who is the main host and operator InfoWars, as well as InfoWars and several others, in March 2018 for defamation.

After Gilmore witnessed and filmed the Aug. 12, 2017, car attack that killed counter-protester Heather Heyer, the defendants started spreading conspiracies about Gilmore, which led to death threats against him and his family, according to the suit.

Following the Wednesday decision, which will allow the defamation suit to continue at the U.S. District Court level in Charlottesville, Gilmore said he was “heartened.”

“We were looking at a potentially long delay if this appeal had gone forward and this decision means that we can quickly return to federal court in Charlottesville and hopefully pursue justice,” he said.

In addition to Jones and InfoWars, the complaint names Free Speech Systems LLC, Lee Stranahan, Lee Ann McAdoo, Scott Creighton, James Hoft, Derrick Wilburn and former Rep. Allen B. West, R-Fla., as defendants. West was later dismissed from the suit.

The denial of the petition comes after a federal judge in Charlottesville granted an interlocutory appeal in September filed by InfoWars and other defendants, temporarily stalling the case.

An interlocutory appeal, which is only allowed under specific circumstances, occurs when a ruling made by a trial court is appealed while the rest of the case moves forward.

In a Sept. 16 opinion, U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon granted the appeal filed by some of the defendants — including Jones and InfoWars — and denied a motion for reconsideration from other defendants. He wrote that though he did not find that the motion for reconsideration had been adequately argued, the defendants’ argument for an interlocutory appeal had met the standard.

Brianne Gorod, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, which is representing Gilmore in the case, said in a news release that she was looking forward to returning to district court.

“We’re gratified to see the Fourth Circuit’s orders today, denying the defendants’ requests for an immediate appeal,” she wrote. “We look forward to returning to the District Court and starting discovery soon.”

Along with being owner and publisher of the Infowars website, Jones runs radio and internet shows linked to the site. He has been embroiled in other defamation suits in Connecticut, Wisconsin and Texas related to conspiracy theories about the 2012 Newton, Connecticut, mass shooting.

Stranahan, a former Breitbart News employee, was featured in a video on Infowars in which he made statements about Gilmore, which the complaint argues are defamatory. McAdoo wrote an article, published on Infowars, that Gilmore alleges contains false statements about him.

Creighton and Hoft both run blogs that ran stories that the suit claims contain false statements about Gilmore. Creighton is owner and author of American Everyman, and Hoft operates Gateway Pundit.

The complaint also states that West and Wilburn are responsible for an article containing false statements about Gilmore that was published on West’s website.

Discovery in the case will now resume. Further hearing dates have not been set.

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