A jury in Wisconsin on Wednesday awarded the father of a Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victim $450,000 for defamation by a conspiracy theorist who claimed the horrific event never happened. Leonard Pozner’s son Noah, 6, was the youngest person killed during the mass shooting that left 26 people dead, including 20 children around Noah’s age. James Fetzer, a professor emeritus of philosophy from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, wrote on his blog and in a book published in 2015 that the tragedy was staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of an effort by the Obama administration to enact tighter gun laws.
In his book, Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, which sold about 3,000 hard copies and was released as an e-book, Fetzer claimed Noah’s death certificate was fabricated. In closing arguments, Pozner’s attorney Genevieve Zimmerman called the cruel claim “alt-right opium.” Pozner testified that the post-traumatic stress disorder he has suffered since Noah’s death has been made worse by harassment he’s received in large part due to Fetzer’s writing. He 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.”