A man who has claimed that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax has been ordered by a jury to pay one of the victim’s parents $450,000 for publishing false claims in a book.
James Fetzer, a retired college professor who co-authored a book called “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook,” was ordered in Dane County, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to pay damages to Leonard Pozner, who filed a defamation lawsuit against him in November 2018. Pozner’s 6-year-old son, Noah, was one of 26 victims killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Fetzer has accused Pozner of circulating fabricated copies of his son’s death certificate and also claimed that Noah was not Pozner’s son.
Pozner, who has been a target of conspiracy theorists and stalkers since his son’s death, thanked the jury for “recognizing the pain and terror that Mr. Fetzer has purposefully inflicted on me and on other victims of these horrific mass casualty events, like the Sandy Hook shooting,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
He went on to say that Fetzer and others like him have a right to believe what they’d like as part of their First Amendment right. But, Pozner said, that doesn’t mean they should be free to harass and terrorize others.
Fetzer reportedly called the damages “absurd” and said he would appeal. The attorneys listed as his representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Pozner has filed similar suits against other conspiracy theorists, including against Alex Jones, who runs the website Infowars. In August, a Texas judge turned down Jones’ attempt to toss a defamation suit brought against him by Pozner and Noah’s mother, Veronique De La Rosa, who are seeking more than $1 million in damages from Jones, who has reiterated his belief that the shooting was a hoax and the parents are “crisis actors.” This led to victims’ families receiving death threats and online harassment from Infowars followers.
Fetzer has maintained that the shooting was a staged federal emergency drill to promote gun control.
Fetzer’s co-author Mike Palecek and their publisher were also named in Pozner’s lawsuit. Both later reached out-of-court settlements, details of which were not disclosed, according to the State Journal.
The publisher stopped selling the book and Dave Gahary, the publisher’s principal officer, issued an apology to Pozner.
“My face-to-face interactions with Mr. Pozner have led me to believe that Mr. Pozner is telling the truth about the death of his son,” Gahary said. “I extend my most heartfelt and sincere apology to the Pozner family.”
But Gahary later told Splinter News that he has no “discomfort” selling such books and that it’s up to readers to decide what they want to read. He said he also continues to have questions about the Sandy Hook attack.