Leonard Pozner, the father of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, the youngest victim in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 people in December 2012, has been awarded $450,000 in a defamation lawsuit against a conspiracy theorist who claimed the shooting never happened.
A Wisconsin jury has ruled that James Fetzer, a retired professor from the University of Minnesota Duluth, must pay Pozner $450,000 for accusing him of forging his son Noah’s death certificate. Fetzer is the coauthor of Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, which alleges that Pozner faked his son’s birth certificate and that the Obama administration staged the shooting in an effort to pass legislation on gun control.
In a statement after the jury decided its award, Pozner said, “Mr. Fetzer has the right to believe that Sandy Hook never happened. He has the right to express his ignorance. This award, however, further illustrates the difference between the right of people like Mr. Fetzer to be wrong and the right of victims like myself and my child to be free from defamation, free from harassment and free from the intentional infliction of terror.”
Last June, Wisconsin Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington ruled that Pozner had been defamed by Fetzer and his coauthor, Michael Palacek. In his suit, Pozner claimed that he had been subject to death threats and harassment as a result of the publication of Fetzer and Palacek’s book. One Florida woman was even arrested and sentenced to five months in jail for sending Pozner a threatening message that said, “Look behind you it is death.”
Following a separate lawsuit against the book’s publisher, it was yanked from shelves earlier this year, with the publisher reaching an undisclosed settlement with Pozner in June and issuing an apology to him. Palacek reached an undisclosed settlement with Pozner last month. “The court has ruled that the death certificate of Noah Pozner is not a fabrication as stated in the book Nobody Died at Sandy Hook. I accept the court’s ruling without appeal, and I apologize for any resulting distress that I may have caused,” he said in a statement at the time.
Fetzer, however, has made no such show of contrition. As recently as last month, he was found in contempt of court for sharing a confidential deposition of Pozner with other Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists online, and was ordered to pay $7,000 to Pozner’s attorneys to recover the costs of filing the contempt complaint. In his own statement after the award ruling, Fetzer said that the amount of damages was “absurd” and that he planned to appeal.
Fetzer is a leader of the so-called Sandy Hook “truther” movement, a group of individuals who believe that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged. The Sandy Hook truther movement has largely been propagated by Alex Jones, the host of the conspiracy theory-promoting radio show InfoWars. Jones has been sued by seven other families of the victims for using his radio show as a platform to promote the theory that the massacre was staged, which has led to them being harassed and receiving death threats from InfoWars fans.
Last Friday, Jones lost his appeal in a Texas court to cite free speech laws in his defense of one of the suits, which was filed by Sandy Hook parent Scarlett Lewis. The lawsuit seeks damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.