Alex Jones, opposing lawyers praise ruling in Parkland shooting lawsuit against Infowars
Infowars’ Alex Jones predicted Thursday that he will prevail against an onslaught of pending litigation after a Texas court dismissed elements of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a man whom Mr. Jones’ website previously identified as a suspected school shooter.
Lawyers representing Marcel Fontaine in the case called Wednesday night’s ruling a loss for Mr. Jones, however, telling The Washington Times that State District Judge Scott Jenkins agreed to let plaintiffs continue pursuing defamation claims against Infowars and its parent company, Free Speech Systems LLC, as well as an Infowars reporter who falsely linked their client to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“Jones’ personal dismissal is meaningless,” said Mark Bankston, a Houston-based attorney representing Mr. Fontaine in his case. “We are thrilled.”
Filed in April in Travis County Court, the lawsuit is one of several initiated in recent months against Mr. Jones, a right-wing media personality repeatedly sued in response to content either published on his Infowars website or aired during episodes of his syndicated radio program, “The Alex Jones Show,” stoking a fiery free speech debate surrounding the subjects of “fake news” and Silicon Valley’s supposed censoring of conservative viewpoint.
The suit brought on behalf of Mr. Fontaine stems from Infowars’ coverage of the Parkland shooting and its publication of an article written by Kit Daniels in the massacre’s aftermath.
“Multiple iterations of the article included a photograph of the plaintiff, Marcel Fontaine, and the articles conveyed the impression that the photograph depicted the suspected Douglas High School Shooter,” Mr. Fontaine’s attorneys wrote in their 24-page complaint alleging defamation, defamation per se and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“Defendants knew or should have known that their publication of Mr. Fontaine’s photograph connecting him with the Douglas High School shooting would cause him to be the subject or harassment, ridicule and threats, thereby causing severe emotional distress,” they wrote, calling Infowars’ publication of the photograph “outrageous and intolerable, going beyond all possible bounces of decency.”
The photograph of Mr. Fontaine was removed from Infowars after roughly 13 hours, and in the interim police arrested confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, a former Marjory Stoneman student subsequently charged with 17 counts of murder in connection with the massacre.
Responding to a motion filed by the defense this month, Judge Jenkins dismissed the emotional distress claim Wednesday and removed Mr. Jones personally as a defendant.
“These cases don’t usually get dismissed in the first round, so it’s good sign that I’ve been severed out,” Mr. Jones, 44, told The Times afterwards. “This happens to me all the time, but obviously for publicity purposes this is being pushed to make it look like I’m just a horrible person by the lawyers, by the Democrats that are involved.
“We never even said the guy’s name and we reposted what someone else had posted, so it’s a very, very weak lawsuit,” Mr. Jones said. “We expect to prevail on all of these lawsuits.”
Bill Ogden, another attorney resenting Mr. Fontaine in the case, disagreed.
“The judge ruled exactly how we wanted the judge to rule, which was keeping the defamation claims alive,” Mr. Ogden told The Times. “The intentional infliction was kind of a safety net. We knew, best-case scenario, is he boots that case and allows the defamation to move forward, so we were very, very happy with this ruling, and we we’re happy that the judge was able to see that this case wasn’t about the First or the Second Amendment, but rather it’s about a defamation claim that Mr. Jones asserted publicly about our client.”
Mr. Ogden is “absolutely” certain Mr. Fontaine’s defamation claims will prevail, he told The Times.
Mr. Jones currently faces at least five defamation suits in three states, including litigation brought in response to his past reporting of events, ranging from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to the deadly 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In a separate hearing later Thursday, Judge Jenkins allowed a similar defamation suit filed on behalf of the parents of a Sandy Hook victim to proceed.
Mr. Jones was banned this month from services operated by companies including Apple, Facebook and Google, setting off a free-speech debate that culminated this week in President Trump accusing Silicon Valley of left-wing bias.
“Google others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed,” Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday.
Mr. Jones subsequently claimed to be personally advising the president on internet censorship. He previously interviewed Mr. Trump on a 2015 broadcast of “The Alex Jones Show” and former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone is a regular Infowars contributor.