A Wisconsin jury has awarded the father of a boy killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting $450,000 following a defamation lawsuit against a retired university professor who claimed the massacre never happened.
Leonard Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was among 26 victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, filed the defamation lawsuit against James Fetzer for disparaging comments he made about the tragedy.
In a statement, Pozner thanked the jury “for recognizing the pain and terror that Mr. Fetzer has purposefully inflicted on me and on other victims of these horrific mass casualty events, like the Sandy Hook shooting,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Fetzer, a retired University of Minnesota Duluth professor now living in Wisconsin, and Mike Palacek co-wrote a book, "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook," in which they claimed the shooting was staged by the Obama administration in an effort to enact tighter gun control restrictions.
Palacek reached an undisclosed settlement with Pozner last month. Fetzer called the damages awarded by the Dane County jury "absurd" and said he would appeal.
Pozner testified that he's received harassment and death threats from conspiracy theorists who claimed he was an actor and that his son never existed. A separate defamation lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents against "Infowars" host Alex Jones, one of the biggest proponents of the theory that the shooting never happened, is pending.
“I had attempted to be transparent. I published Noah’s death certificate on a social media page I used as a memorial page. And after doing that I was accused of being a fake and a fraud and that changed everything,” he said, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Along with other Sandy Hook parents, Pozner has spent years lobbying Facebook to remove conspiracist videos about the shooting from its platform.
During the trial, Pozner said Fetzer's writing caused him to worry for the safety of himself and his family. He emphasized the case was not about First Amendment protections.
"Mr. Fetzer has the right to believe that Sandy Hook never happened. He has the right to express his ignorance," Pozner said. "This award, however, further illustrates the difference between the right of people like Mr. Fetzer to be wrong and the right of victims like myself and my child to be free from defamation, free from harassment and free from the intentional infliction of terror."