Norwalk native sues Infowars' founder Alex Jones for $1 million
Hour - 8/6/2018
Aug. 04--NORWALK -- In his youth, Marcel Fontaine was a shy kid with a heavy stutter. As someone who was on the autism spectrum and had serious doubts about his sexual orientation, he preferred to go unnoticed rather than stick out to his peers.
Fontaine deliberately flew under people's radar for years, until last February when he was falsely identified as the perpetrator behind the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 dead by Infowars.com, a site run by the provocateur and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Now, Fontaine, a Norwalk native, is suing Jones, Infowars LLC, the website's publisher Free Speech Systems LLC and a writer on the site, Kit Daniels, in a million-dollar defamation lawsuit.
Fontaine's attorney Mark Bankston filed the defamation suit in state District Court in Travis County, Texas on Apr. 2, claiming that the post, which included his photo and was topped by headlines such as "Reported Florida Shooter Dressed as Communist, Supported ISIS" and "Reported Florida Shooter Discussed 'Allahu Akbar' on Instagram Profile," was "manifestly false" and ultimately caused his client "enormous injury and continuing personal harassment."
While Fontaine declined any interviews regarding the lawsuit, the 25-year-old did concede that this isn't the first time he's felt unfairly targeted. Kids at Brien McMahon High School would often mimic his stutter, and even after he graduated high school he struggled to feel at home in his own skin.
"I needed to pretend I was straight a lot until I came out (as gay)," Fontaine said.
After graduating high school, Fontaine attended Norwalk Community College but dropped out after a few semesters. He later moved to Keene, N.H., and took off to Massachusetts two years later. Just as Fontaine was getting comfortable in the new locale, the now infamous photo of him found its way to InfoWars.
"The plaintiff's photograph spread across social media platforms with astonishing speed, resulting in its distribution to millions of additional people, typically accompanied by ridicule or malicious threats," the lawsuit said.
On Thursday, Jones' attorney, Eric Taube, sought to have his client removed from the lawsuit, claiming the decision to publish the photo on the InfoWars website was made by Daniels, a reporter for Free Speech Systems, LLC, which Taube said publishes the website, but that Jones himself had no part in publishing the erroneous image and knew nothing about it beforehand.
"The allegations with respect to Mr. Jones are zero," the Austin attorney told Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins.
"They say he defamed Mr. Fontaine and he published something" defamatory, Taube said. "He published nothing."
Taube, who is representing all the defendants, is seeking to have the case dismissed, but, short of that, he is trying to remove Jones and InfoWars LLC from liability.
The lawsuit claims InfoWars targeted Fontaine due to the shirt he was wearing, which played on the phrase "Communist Party" by depicting historical Communist figures in different states of merriment complete with German economist Karl Marx wearing a lampshade on his head.
"Not only was the source extraordinarily untrustworthy, but even the most basic diligence would have revealed that the anonymous message was a cruel and stupid joke, and that Mr. Fontaine had been subject to harassment on the 4chan website for days prior to the shooting," rebutted Bankston, referring to the site well-known for its trolling and hoaxes.
According to suit, Fontaine contacted the site and demanded the photo be removed. Instead, it took 14 hours for InfoWars.com to remove the post, during which time it spread around the world, the suit claims.
Jenkins will render a decision on whether to dismiss Fontaine's case against any or all of the defendants within 30 days of receiving any remaining documents in the case.
Includes prior reporting from the Associated Press.
(c)2018 The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.)
Visit The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.) at www.thehour.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.