August 31, 2018 / 2:00 AM / 3 months ago

U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones loses bid to stop defamation lawsuit

AUSTIN, Texas, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones lost a bid to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against him by the parents of a boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, according to court documents released on Thursday.

Judge Scott Jenkins in Travis County, Texas, where Jones lives, said Jones’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit was “in all respects denied,” court papers showed.

Jones has used his media platform Infowars to call the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 26 people a hoax, and suggested a political cover-up took place by left-wing forces seeking to take advantage of the shooting to promote gun control.

Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose 6-year-old son Noah was murdered at Sandy Hook, said they sued because they were harassed and forced to move seven times after Jones called them liars and frauds, according to court documents.

Jones faces two other defamation cases related to Sandy Hook and a separate defamation lawsuit for wrongly identifying a man as the gunman who killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida in February.

Mark Enoch, a lawyer for Jones, told the court on Thursday in a hearing for one of the defamation suits that his client is dispensing political speech and is protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment. Jones was not in court.

Donald Trump appeared on a show produced by Infowars, hosted by Jones, in December 2015 while campaigning for the White House.

“It is an all-out campaign to silence my client,” Enoch said.

Several social media companies have taken down Jones’ podcasts and other information, saying he violated their terms of service.

Earlier this month, Alphabet’s YouTube joined Apple Inc and Facebook Inc in removing some content from the Infowars website. Twitter also suspended Jones’ account for seven days.

The judge has yet to rule on whether the second defamation lawsuit in Texas, brought by Neil Heslin, whose son was murdered at Sandy Hook, can proceed.

Mark Bankston, who represents the parents in both Texas lawsuits, said in court filings that Jones and Infowars have launched “a malicious campaign of incomprehensible lies.”

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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