A Unite the Right defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones and other far-right figures will likely be delayed by a year or more following discovery woes.
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.
Following the end of the multi-week Sines v. Kessler trial, Gilmore’s case may be the most significant legal action remaining from the Unite the Right rally.
In recent months the parties have clashed over discovery issues, with counsel for Jones arguing that the plaintiff’s responses were deficient in several areas, including allegations about what portions of Jones and co.’s speech is considered defamatory. These discovery issues as well as others will likely impact the trial date, which is currently set to begin in January.
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.
In a Nov. 22 order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe wrote that Gilmore had indeed identified several specific incidents of alleged defamatory speech, which is partly why the lawsuit survived a previous dismissal attempt.
Additionally, Hoppe wrote that a motion to compel is not the appropriate vehicle to litigate whether an entire statement or video may show defamation by implication. That is a decision left to the presiding District Judge, should a party properly present it to him, Hoppe wrote.
“Nonetheless, if Gilmore has not identified all allegedly false and defamatory statements and instead elected to cite only some examples, then he must supplement his responses to the [defendants’] interrogatories,” Hoppe wrote. “[The defendants] are entitled to full and complete discovery responses that identify all the statements Gilmore contends are false and defamatory.”
Hoppe additionally granted a request in part for Gilmore’s mental health documents, but wrote that the five year time period requested by the defendants was “too broad, even to assess a baseline.”
An issue of apparent behind the scenes contention has been over non-public communications Gilmore may have had with journalists. Gilmore alleges that no such communications occurred but agreed to “re-review” communications.
“In light of this concession, however, the court finds it unnecessary at this time to order him to file a declaration affirming that he has produced all responsive documents and detailing the methods employed in searching for such documents,” Hoppe wrote.
In a Nov. 24 motion for discovery extension, counsel for Gilmore wrote that defendants Jones, and Infowars have yet to produce any documents in response to requests for analytics and marketing data. Additionally complicating the process is defendant James Hoft of the far-right Gateway Pundit blog, whom Gilmore’s counsel argues has not provided all his responsive documents.
Given the outstanding discovery and scheduling limitations faced by the parties, per the motion all parties have agreed to take certain depositions after the current fact discovery deadline, impacting the January trial date.
“Nevertheless, because the outstanding discovery — some of which is responsive to requests [Gilmore] served more than eighteen months ago in March 2020 — concerns information central to[Gilmore’s] case, [Gilmore] would be severely prejudiced should he be required to complete depositions before receiving the discovery responsive to his timely served requests,” the motion reads. “Moreover, the parties’ current conflicts precludes trial until late 2022 or early 2023, which fact the parties have communicated to [U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon] through his clerk.”
The trial has yet to be formally rescheduled, though a new date will likely be a topic of discussion during a telephonic hearing on Dec. 8 in Charlottesville’s federal court.