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Earlier this month, Wisconsin jury ordered a Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist to pay $450,000 in compensatory damages to a victim’s father, citing defamatory claims made about the forgery of the victim’s death certificate.

In June, Judge Frank Remington of Wisconsin’s Dane County Circuit Court approved a motion for summary judgement in plaintiff Leonard Pozner’s favor and precluded the case from moving onto a trial by jury. The judge ruled that co-defendants James Fetzer and Mike Palecek, authors of the 455-page book “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook: It was a FEMA Drill to Promote Gun Control,” had defamed Pozner. The book claimed that Pozner fabricated the death certificate of his son, Noah, who at six years old was the youngest victim of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that left 27 dead.

“This is a victory for everyone who values truth and facts and reality over unchecked fantasy,” Jake Zimmerman, the lead attorney representing Pozner, said in an interview with the News.

Law firms in both Minnesota and Wisconsin — Meshbesher & Spence in Minneapolis and Quarles & Brady in Madison — assisted Zimmerman in Pozner’s case. The prosecution focused on verifying Noah’s birth and the authenticity of his death certificate.

Seeking to prove the biological relationship between Noah and his father, Pozner’s legal team ordered two rounds of DNA testing — one of their client and one of a blood sample obtained from Noah’s post-mortem exam at the coroner’s office. Attorneys also deposed the coroner and the typist who created the death certificate.

“It was the right thing to do,” Zimmerman said of his choice to represent Pozner on a pro bono basis. “Mr. Pozner suffered the kind of loss that every American should be afraid of … I hear from my kids every year when they go through the mass casualty incident drills, and the idea that that’s becoming commonplace is terrifying.”

While Palecek previously settled with Pozner for an undisclosed amount, Fetzer plans to appeal the court’s ruling. Fetzer, a professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota Duluth, testified that there were “material differences” between the death certificate published in his book and the copy provided by Pozner’s attorneys, a statement he reiterated in an interview with the News.

He said that his copy of the death certificate — which his colleague Kelley Watt obtained from Pozner — lacked a file number in the upper left-hand corner and necessary town and state certifications. Fetzer then argued that he was being sued for making claims about a certificate he had “never seen.”

The Sandy Hook shooting is not the only conspiracy theory Fetzer helped bring to the surface. He authored three collections of John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory books and has espoused various conspiracy theories about 9/11, the Holocaust and the moon landing.

Fetzer noted that the judge’s decision to grant the motion for summary judgement precluded him from presenting the extensive evidence he compiled to support his theory that Sandy Hook was a government hoax.

“Nobody has ever heard of a crime scene where there was pizza and bottled water,” Fetzer said.

Dave Gahary and Fetzer are the co-founders of Moon Rock Books, a company they founded to continue selling “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook” after Amazon banned the book from its platform. Gahary was scheduled to testify, but his deposition was ultimately cancelled. Still, he traveled to Madison in May to attend the hearings, where he met Pozner for the first time and listened to the father answer nearly nine hours of questions.

In an interview with the News, Gahary said that he initially agreed to publish Fetzer’s book because he does not believe in censorship. However, after hearing Pozner’s extensive testimony, he decided to stop distributing the book because he did not want to contribute to his misery, Gahary said. Moon Rock Books emptied its inventory of copies of the book by June 30.

On Oct. 22, Pozner submitted a court order to Google to restrict search results for six websites that offer free PDF versions of “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.”

“I don’t know — I wasn’t there,” Gahary said in response to a question about what he thought took place at Sandy Hook. “I ask [journalists], ‘Were you there?’ So we really don’t know what happened … we can read what was printed in the papers and shown on television, but we don’t know.”

A similar defamation lawsuit, filed by eight Sandy Hook families and one F.B.I agent who responded to the scene, is currently proceeding in Connecticut against radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Pozner is pursuing his own lawsuit against Jones in Texas.

An October study by Vox Media found that there have been at least 2,275 mass shootings in the U.S. since Sandy Hook, which occurred on December 14, 2012.

 

Olivia Tucker | olivia.tucker@yale.edu

 

Correction, Nov. 7: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the book’s title. The article has been updated to reflect the accurate title, which is “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.”