Lawyers in Sandy Hook Lawsuit Spar Over Meaning of an Online Broadcast

In April 2017, according to court documents, Mr. Jones aired a clip of Ms. De La Rosa’s interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN after the shooting. Mr. Jones notes that when Mr. Cooper turns his head, “his nose disappears repeatedly because the green screen isn’t set right,” implying that the interview was not filmed near the scene of the shooting, but was staged in a studio.

Mr. Enoch played a half-hour montage of news and movie clips, which Mr. Jones said suggested examples of lies by CNN, the federal government and politicians. Displaying a narrow series of quotes from the hourslong original broadcast on poster board, Mr. Enoch said those remarks by Mr. Jones did not defame Ms. De La Rosa.

Instead, he said, Mr. Jones was criticizing lies by the mainstream news media, the “vampires” who were part of the Sandy Hook plot — accusations that were Mr. Jones’s opinion, not fact, and therefore largely protected under the First Amendment.

Mr. Enoch also argued that Mr. Pozner and Ms. De La Rosa became public figures when they spoke out in favor of a ban on assault-style weapons like the rifle used to kill their son. To win a defamation case, public figures must prove actual malice, meaning that Mr. Jones knew that the statements were untrue and broadcast them anyway or that he demonstrated reckless disregard as to their accuracy.

The lawyer for Mr. Pozner and Ms. De La Rosa, Mark Bankston, argued that the excerpts from the April 2017 broadcast chosen by Mr. Enoch did not include multiple “monstrous” false statements that Mr. Jones presented as fact, like the false claim that the parents were actors in a government plot.

Mr. Bankston said Mr. Jones’s remarks about Ms. De La Rosa’s CNN interview fit into a pattern. Over five years, according to court filings, Mr. Jones repeatedly used the segment as a basis for false claims that the shooting was staged.

Judge Jenkins noted that “it’s a very interesting question of law” as to whether one can be an “involuntary” public figure by dint of suffering a tragedy and publicly speaking about it.