Civil and Human Rights

TV (CBS-19): Judge hears motions to dismiss in Alex Jones defamation case

Attorneys for online conspiracy theorists including Infowars website founder Alex Jones were in federal court in Charlottesville on Tuesday asking a judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit.

The defense attorneys say their clients are protected by the First Amendment, but attorneys for the man who brought the suit disagree.

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.

In court, attorneys for the defendants argued the case should be thrown out because the federal court does not have jurisdiction.

They cited statements from the online articles that they claimed were evidence that the defendants were using obvious exaggerations rather than making serious claims about Gilmore.

They also claimed Gilmore is a “limited purpose public figure” because of his statements to the media after he made his video public. Public figures have to cross a higher threshold to prove defamation.

Gilmore’s attorneys argued that Gilmore was a private figure until the conspiracy articles began, and they said the articles would lead readers to believe the statements about Gilmore were meant literally.

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.”