Counsel for supplement salesman and online news commentator Alex Jones is pushing for additional disclosures and specifics from a Charlottesville-area plaintiff who sued him for alleged defamation following the 2017 Unite the Right rally.
Filed on behalf of area activist and former U.S. Foreign Service officer Brennan Gilmore, the Gilmore v. Jones lawsuit has been inching its way to trial for several years.
Gilmore sued Jones, who is the main host and operator of InfoWars, as well as InfoWars and several others, in March 2018, claiming defamation.
After Gilmore witnessed and filmed the Aug. 12, 2017, rally car attack that killed counter-protester Heather Heyer, the defendants started spreading conspiracies about Gilmore, which led to death threats against him and his family, according to the suit.
In addition to Jones and InfoWars, the complaint names Free Speech Systems LLC, Jim Hoft, Lee Stranahan, Lee Ann McAdoo, Scott Creighton, Derrick Wilburn and former U.S. Rep. Allen B. West, R-Fla., as defendants. West was later dismissed from the suit and Wilburn and Hickford recently agreed to financial settlements.
Earlier this month, counsel on behalf of Jones, Infowars and Free Speech Systems filed a motion asking the court to compel Gilmore to “supplement his deficient responses.”
The motion argues that Gilmore’s responses were deficient in five areas: specific identification of alleged false and defamatory statements made by the movant defendants; Gilmore’s communications and interactions with media entities; Gilmore’s claimed injuries and damages; Gilmore’s communications with third parties about the central issues in this case; and Gilmore’s membership in associations and organizations, and his applications for grants and awards.
Much of the motion focuses on an argument that Gilmore should be required to respond with specificity as to which parts of Jones and the other movant defendants’ speech are considered defamatory. Counsel for Gilmore has previously provided examples of commentary believed to be defamatory and claimed the videos are wholly defamatory, which Jones’ counsel argues is non-exhaustive and absent of specificity identifying which statements Gilmore alleges are false
“[Gilmore] responds with vague, unresponsive, and incomplete answers. If [Gilmore]has come to realize that perhaps he cannot identify defamatory statements, he is free to reconsider this case and to move to voluntarily dismiss it,” the motion on behalf of Jones reads. “But, if he is to maintain a defamation action, especially one against the press, he must respond to the most basic question in any defamation claim — what was the false statement of fact that damaged his reputation?”
Jones’ counsel argues that stating that the entire publication is defamatory by implication is not sufficient and that Gilmore is obligated to identify which statements he contends are false.
“For example, is [Gilmore] claiming that statements that he worked for the State Department are, in fact, false? Is he asserting that it is defamatory to say someone works for the State Department?,” the motion reads. “Instead, [Gilmore] provides in his responses and correspondence blocks of text in which he asserts defamatory statements may somewhere lie.”
Later in the motion, Jones’ counsel also argues that Gilmore’s non-public communications are relevant to the defense for a “number of reasons,” which includes the defense argument that Gilmore may have been responsible for cultivating the connection between him and his former work with the U.S. Foreign Service.
“It seems highly likely that he may have done so, given the fact that he has not yet even identified for the [defendants ] what the allegedly defamatory implications are,” the motion reads. “Perhaps he clarified it for one of the journalists to whom he spoke.”
The motion goes on to argue that Gilmore has only “vaguely” alleged that he suffered damage to his reputation, lost business opportunities, lost romantic partners and suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the defendants’ actions.
“For instance, requested detailed instances of lost business opportunities as a result of defendants’ actions,” the motion reads. “Rather than providing any such instances, Mr. Gilmore’s response sidesteps the question, stating that ‘he found himself in meetings and calls with potential contacts having to explain his background and why the defamatory statements made about him were untrue,’” and that ‘[p]otential partners of the company may well have hesitated to engage with him.’”
The motion to compel requests a broad amount of personal documents and communications, including: any and all records about his emotional state starting from Aug. 1, 2012; any and all records from Clean Virginia and James Madison University and/or its employees, officers, and/or directors regarding Gilmore’s appearance at the rally; and any communication involving the “McAdoo video” and “Jones video.”
This is not the first time a defendant has attempted to compel evidence, as defendant Hoft, of the far-right Gateway Pundit blog, attempted in recent months to subpoena a broad range of non-parties. Though most of Hoft’s attempts have been denied, Verizon did hand over a non-party journalist’s phone records, forcing the court to intervene.
Counsel for Gilmore has not yet responded to Jones’ latest motion and no hearings are currently set for argument on the motion. A multi-week trial is currently scheduled to begin Jan. 18 in Charlottesville’s federal court.