Sandy Hook parents are suing a prominent conspiracy theorist for defamation: "Enough is enough"
Three parents who lost children in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting have filed two defamation suits against Alex Jones, the notorious radio host and conspiracy theorist who has called the massacre a “giant hoax,” PEOPLE learns.
On Monday, Houston attorney Mark D. Bankston filed the suits in Travis County District Court in Austin, Texas, where Jones is based.
Jones hosts an eponymous radio show and owns Infowars.com, a website that has trafficked in conspiracy theories on various topics including Sandy Hook.
Bankston is representing Neil Heslin, whose 7-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, was killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut; and Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose 6-year-old son, Noah, was also killed.
The shooting left 20 children and six adults dead at the school before the shooter killed himself.
Heslin is seeking in excess of $1 million in damages from Jones and Infowars as well as Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer and Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems, according to the complaint, which was obtained by PEOPLE.
Heslin is suing for damage to his reputation and for the mental anguish he suffered after Jones and Shroyer accused him of lying about his son’s death, the suit argues.
Pozner and De La Rosa are also seeking in excess of $1 million in damages from Jones, Infowars and Free Speech Systems.
Both Heslin’s suit and the one brought by Pozner and De La Rosa “seek to address specific accusations made by Mr. Jones and Infowars in 2017 that our clients were participants in a sinister cover-up at Sandy Hook,” Bankston, an attorney with Kaster, Lynch, Farrar and Ball, in Houston, tells PEOPLE.
Since 2013, the lawsuits state, Jones has at various times claimed the shooting was staged by the government and employed actors to pose as parents of the victims as part of a massive attempt to hide the truth of what happened.
Inflammatory statements made by Jones and Infowars last year about his clients, Bankston says, “were part of a long history of lies peddled by Jones.”
Calls for comment from Jones, Shroyer, Infowars, Free Speech Systems and Jones’ attorney were not immediately returned.
Jones has previously described himself as a “devil’s advocate” and said last year, in an interview on NBC’s Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, that “I tend to believe that children probably did die there [at Sandy Hook].”
“But,” he continued, “then you look at all the other evidence on the other side.”
A compilation of Jones’ comments by the liberal nonprofit Media Matters shows that he has repeatedly denounced the mass shooting as an alleged fiction, including labeling it a “giant hoax” in December 2014. Earlier that year, he said, “I’ve looked at it and undoubtedly there’s a cover-up.” false
In a 20-minute segment on his radio show in November 2016, however, Jones attempted to explain his years of past statements as an attempt to foster debate, even if controversial.
Still, he maintained, “I’m going to be quite frank, I don’t know what really happened. I know there are real mass shootings. I know people lose children. I’m a father — it hurts my heart. So I don’t know what the truth is. All I know is the official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.”
A Suit ‘To Set the Record Straight’
Heslin’s lawsuit stems from comments he made during his June 18, 2017, interview with Megyn Kelly on NBC, when she asked him about Jones’ past claims that the shooting was fake.
“I lost my son,” Heslin told Kelly during the broadcast. “I buried my son. I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.”
Shroyer, the Infowars reporter, subsequently brought up Heslin’s comment during a June 26, 2017, Infowars’ broadcast when he claimed that account “cannot be accurate,” Heslin’s lawsuit states.
Shroyer’s report, Heslin’s suit against him states, “was manifestly false” and that “a minimal amount of research would have caused any competent journalist not to publish the defamatory accusation.”
Related article: Sandy Hook elementary shooting: Stories of heroism and love
News accounts at the time reported that the bodies of the victims were released from the medical examiner into the custody of the families, according to the lawsuit.
Heslin was again discussed by Jones on July 20, 2017, when he replayed Shroyer’s report on his show, demanding that Heslin “clarify” what actually happened, his suit states.
Jones claimed on that broadcast that “the stuff I found was that they never let them see their bodies,” according to Heslin’s suit.
Heslin tells PEOPLE he is bringing suit “to set things straight.”
“Such a horrific tragedy is not something people should be trying to cast doubt on. I find it very disrespectful to Jesse,” he says. “It’s not justified.”
He continues: “Hoaxsters and conspiracy theorists feed off of this. It’s a dangerous practice, along with being disrespectful. To call somebody a liar over something like this is not acceptable. We have laws that protect us from such acts and they need to be enforced.”
‘Their Pain Is Unfathomable’
The lawsuit filed by Noah Pozner’s parents is based Infowars recirculating old rumors that De La Rosa was a “crisis actor” who participated in a fake interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Dec. 21, 2012, to cover up the “truth” that the shooting never took place, their complaint states.
In a broadcast on April 22, 2017, Jones claimed that De La Rosa took part in a staged, blue-screen interview from a remote location and not in Newtown, her suit with Pozner suit alleges.
On June 13, 2017, Jones posted a video to the Infowars Facebook page where he “once again promoted his defamatory lie about Mrs. De La Rosa’s interview on CNN,” stating “there’s been a cover up,” their lawsuit states.
Their suit also argues that Jones helped spread a conspiracy theory that Noah was actually alive and living in Pakistan after his picture appeared on signs at a vigil for children who were killed in a school attack in Peshawar.
PEOPLE’s attempts to reach Pozner and De La Rosa for comment were not immediately successful on Tuesday.
Says Bankston: “In all our years of helping families who have lost loved ones under horrific circumstances, we have never seen victims subjected to this kind of malicious cruelty. Their pain is unfathomable.”