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Charlottesville officials push back against rally lawsuit defendant

Several current and former Charlottesville officials are pushing back against subpoena attempts filed on behalf of Gateway Pundit founder and Unite the Right rally defamation lawsuit defendant James Hoft.

Filed on behalf of Charlottesville-area activist and former U.S. Foreign Service officer Brennan Gilmore, the Gilmore v. Alex 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 Hoft, Jones and InfoWars, the complaint names Free Speech Systems LLC, 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.

The lawsuit specifically accuses Hoft of publishing an article containing false and defamatory statements about him, including that the U.S. Department of State organized the Charlottesville rioting and/or attack; Gilmore participated in the State Department’s planning of the Charlottesville riots and/or attack; the State Department conspired to conceal these facts by removing information about Gilmore from a number of internet sources; media outlets were involved in the conspiracy because they knew Gilmore was a State Department employee; the media characterized Gilmore as a casual observer because they were working in concert with Gilmore, the State Department and other government agencies to cover up their involvement; and all of these conspirators worked together to deceive the public about what happened in Charlottesville.

The case has seen relatively little movement since the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition from various defendants challenging the case’s venue in November 2019.

The last two months have seen various filings from non-parties seeking to quash Hoft’s motions to subpoena them under Rule 45 and mandate the release of certain documents. These non-parties include the city of Charlottesville, former City Manager Maurice Jones, former Police Chief Al Thomas and Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania.

Per Hoft’s responses to the non-parties, his primary means of defending himself in the suit is an “absolute defense.” Additionally, he claims that the non-parties have documents he needs to defend himself.

The non-parties have argued that Hoft’s requests are for irrelevant materials and are unduly burdensome.

A motion filed on behalf of Platania argues that both the documents and subpoena requested by Hoft are overly broad and that Platania’s personal knowledge of the Unite the Right rally and subsequent related events is not relevant to the issues in this case.

“Hoft obviously did not have the information that he is seeking from Platania at the time he published the statements concerning Gilmore,” the motion reads. “Therefore, Platania’s knowledge could not have influenced Hoft’s state of mind.”

Hoft’s response to the non-parties’ motions includes arguments that counter-protesters at the rally were not peaceful and unsupported claims that car attacker James Alex Fields Jr. applied the brakes before he drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Despite a state criminal trial in which the situation and setting around the car attack were examined in great detail and dozens of witnesses testified to the peaceful behavior of the counter-protesters, Hoft argues that Gilmore’s description of the attack is inaccurate.

A virtual hearing is set for June 14 to, in part, allow counsel to prevent arguments for and against quashing Hoft’s motions. At least one of Hoft’s depositions has been halted pending the hearing.


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