On June 19, 2018, Cohen Milstein filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a group of 14 scholars in support of plaintiff Brennan Gilmore in a defamation lawsuit in federal court in Virginia related to the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and counter protests. The case is Brennan M. Gilmore v. Alexander E. Jones, et al., Case No. 18-00017, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The scholars’ amicus brief rebuts the defendants’ arguments that they cannot be sued in a Virginia court for defaming Gilmore because they are not Virginia residents or Virginia businesses and their statements were made over the Internet and not targeted at a Virginia audience.
On March 29, 2019, the Honorable Norman K. Moon for the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied defendant's motion to dismiss based on jurisdictional grounds, holding that the Court can exercise diversity jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and that it can exercise specific personal jurisdiction over all defendants except for one, allowing the defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones and others to move forward.
On November 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied defendant’s request to bring an immediate appeal of the lower court’s March 29 ruling. Subsequently, on November 27, 2019 and December 3, 2019, the Fourth Circuit denied defendants’ petitions for rehearing en banc. (Alex Jones’ petition was denied on December 3, 2019.)
The plaintiff is Brennan Gilmore, a Virginia resident, who filmed the now-infamous video of the car that crushed and killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017 during the “Unite the Right” rally. After Gilmore posted the video to Twitter, Alex Jones, founder of and commentator on Infowars, an American conspiracy theorist and fake news media platform, and several other similar media operations began publishing defamatory and false stories about Gilmore, including that he was a “Deep State” and CIA operative who had engineered the deadly attack as part of a George Soros-funded master plan to overthrow President Trump. Soon after, Gilmore came under extreme harassment and threats – the FBI and Virginia law enforcement have been monitoring Gilmore and his family due to increased threats directed at him, Gilmore’s address (his parents’ address) was posted online, and Gilmore has lost business opportunities due to the increased (and startling) attention he has received from these media outlets.
On March 13, 2018, Gilmore, who is represented by the Georgetown Civil Rights Clinic and the Constitutional Accountability Center, brought suit for defamation in federal court in the Western District of Virginia, in Charlottesville, near where Gilmore lives.
The Georgetown Civil Rights Clinic and the Constitutional Accountability Center asked Cohen Milstein to draft an amicus brief responding to the Defendants’ contention that they cannot be sued in Virginia. The case is in the motion to dismiss stage and has received a fair amount of media attention – it is a companion case to the one brought by the parents of the Sandy Hook victims against Alex Jones and Infowars for calling the Sandy Hook massacre a “hoax” and accusing the parents of being paid actors.
Recent media clips on Brennan M. Gilmore v. Alexander E. Jones, et al are listed below:
- Washington Post, “The Conspiracy Theorists Attacked Him. He’s Fighting Back in Court.” March 13, 2018
- Washington Post Op-Ed, “Alex Jones is a Menace to Society. I’m Suing Him.” March 14, 2018
Recent media clips on the Sandy Hook lawsuits against Jones:
- New York Times, “Sandy Hook Parents Sue Alex Jones for Defamation,” April 17, 2018