Civil and Human Rights

Bad News for Alex Jones: Defamation Case Over Charlottesville Theories Gets Green Light

A team from Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic represents the plaintiff.

Legal troubles mounted Friday for conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones after a federal judge in Virginia ruled a defamation lawsuit can proceed against him and other defendants over the Charlottesville rallies that led to the death of protester Heather Heyer.

Jones is a co-defendant, along with his media company Infowars LLC and others, including former Florida Rep. Allen West, in a suit filed by plaintiff Brennan M. Gilmore, whose video of Heyer’s death went viral.

Gilmore recorded and posted a video of James Alex Fields Jr. plowing his car into a crowd protesting the “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia, which had attracted white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. Fields later pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crimes for the August 2017 attack that killed Heyer, a paralegal with The Miller Law Group, and injured 36 others.

But Gilmore alleges Jones and the other defendants led an online campaign accusing him of being a “deep state” operative who helped orchestrate and spread propaganda about the incident. He filed a federal lawsuit suit in the Western District of Virginia alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the Virginia court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and could not exercise personal jurisdiction over them.

Senior U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon disagreed. He found the court could exercise personal jurisdiction over all the defendants, except for West. Moon dismissed West because Gilmore failed to prove he had a hand in distributing an article targeting a Virginia audience.

Andrew Mendrala and Aderson Francois [of Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic] and Brianne Gorod and Elizabeth Wydra [of the Constitutional Accountability Center] represented Gilmore.

“Victims of vile conspiracy theories should take comfort in Judge Moon’s ruling that Brennan Gilmore’s defamation suit against InfoWars must proceed,” supervising attorney Mendrala said in a statement Friday. “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.”

Defense counsel included Thomas Albro and Evan Mayo of Tremblay & Smith; and Baker & Hostetler attorneys Andrew Grossman, Elizabeth Scully, Richard Raile and Mark Bailen. Bailen’s automated email message indicated he was out of office Friday, while the other attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment by deadline

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