Sandy Hook parents sue conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for defamation

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The parents of two children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre have sued conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for defamation, accusing him and his website InfoWars of engaging in a campaign of “false, cruel, and dangerous assertions.”

The two lawsuits filed on Monday in Travis County, Texas, where Jones resides, are likely the first defamation cases concerning Sandy Hook brought against Jones, who has called the shooting a hoax, said Mark Bankston, a Houston-based lawyer for the parents.

The parents decided to sue more than five years after the attacks because they had concluded Jones has no intention of leaving them alone, Bankston said.

“He needs to held accountable,” Bankston said in a phone interview. “The strategy of ignoring him didn’t work, He didn’t go away.”

Jones and a lawyer for him named in the lawsuits did not respond to requests to comment. Jones’ InfoWars media site and affiliated Free Speech Systems were also named as defendants.

A gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, in an attack that ranks among the five deadliest mass shootings by a single gunman in U.S. history.

InfoWars founder Jones has questioned what he calls the “official story” of Sandy Hook and suggested a political cover-up took place. Although his theory has been discredited, people who believe Jones have harassed and taunted families of the victims.

The suits filed by Leonard Pozner, Veronique De La Rosa and Neil Heslin seek at least $1 million in damages. Each claims Jones repeatedly asserted the Sandy Hook shooting was staged and the parents were liars and frauds who helped in a cover-up.

“Defendants’ defamatory statements were knowingly false or made with reckless disregard for the truth,” one lawsuit said.

In March, Jones was named as one of several defendants in a lawsuit filed by a Virginia man who claimed he was defamed by false stories in which he was accused of helping stage unrest last summer in Charlottesville, Virginia, as part of an effort to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump.

Brennan Gilmore, 38, said in that lawsuit that Jones and InfoWars published stories that damaged his reputation and led to threats against him.

In a video Jones prepared in response to the lawsuit, he rejected the accusation that any of the InfoWars content about Gilmore was knowingly false, and predicted any jury would acquit him.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Tom Brown