Civil and Human Rights

Defendants Asking Federal Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Tied to Aug. 2017

A federal judge is considering arguments over a motion to dismiss the lawsuit between an eyewitness to the violence tied to the Unite the Right rally and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and others.

Attorneys representing Jones and other defendants asked the judge Tuesday, November 13, to dismiss the lawsuit.

The suit claims plaintiff Brennan Gilmore, a former State Department official, became a target of harassment after posting a video showing the deadly car attack along 4th Street following the controversial rally held on August 12, 2017.

Gilmore witnessed the incident that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead, and injured dozens more. He posted a video to Twitter, and was interviewed by national media outlets.

According to the lawsuit, Jones, Infowars, and the other defendants soon started spreading conspiracy theories about Gilmore, which led to threats against the plaintiff and his family. Gilmore claims to have suffered from hate mail, death threats, hacking attempts, and in-person harassment.

“All these threats and harm that I received because of taking that video here on August 12th. I just want to ensure that the next person who finds themselves in that position, that they don’t have to suffer the same injury I suffered,” Gilmore said.

“The First Amendment does not protect the ability of these conspiracy mongerers [sic] to drag regular citizens into the public sphere, to spread lies that damage their reputation,” said Elizabeth Wydra, Gilmore’s attorney.

“We believe this is just an abuse of the First Amendment. Many of the statements are very clearly opinion. Often, opinions, you might find offensive but the First Amendment doesn’t just protect speech you agree with,” said defense attorney Aaron Walker, who represents six of the defendants, Lee Stranahan, Jim Hoft, R. Scott Creighton, Derrick Wilburn, Michelle Hickford and Words-N-Ideas, LLC.

Gilmore says comments made by the defendants painted him as an accessory after the fact to the death of Heyer. He is seeking at least $75,000 in the lawsuit. Wydra says the point of the lawsuit is to demonstrate that words matter, especially now.

The judge is considering arguments on whether Gilmore is a public or private citizen: Defense attorneys claim Gilmore was at least a limited-public figure, because he worked in a Democratic campaign and is an activist.

In court Tuesday, attorneys focused on the hours and days immediately afterward the events of August 12th, specifically interview given to the media and what was said.

The judge is also mulling if Gilmore can properly sue all defendants in Charlottesville where he lives. The defense argues the out-of-state defendants cannot be sued in Virginia, and instead, Gilmore must go to their jurisdictions.

The suit was filed by Georgetown University Law School Civil Rights Center on behalf of Gilmore.