A Dane County judge on Monday found that a longtime conspiracy theorist living in the village of Oregon, along with his co-defendant, defamed the father of a victim of the Sandy Hook massacre and allowed a trial for damages against the men to move ahead.
James Fetzer, of Oregon, and Mike Palecek, of Saginaw, Minnesota, edited the 2016 edition of the book “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook,” which alleges Leonard Pozner circulated a fraudulent copy of his son Noah Pozner’s death certificate. Fetzer also co-authored a chapter in the book and has repeated in his blog the claim that Leonard Pozner circulated a fake death certificate for his son.
Noah Pozner, at age 6, was the youngest victim of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, which left 27 people dead. Fetzer, a professor emeritus of philosophy from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, claims the massacre never happened but was instead an event staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of an Obama administration effort to enact tighter gun restrictions.
During a four-hour hearing before Circuit Judge Frank Remington, Pozner’s attorney Jacob Zimmerman offered evidence to counter Fetzer’s contention that a death certificate for Noah Pozner, an image of which was reprinted in Fetzer’s book, is a fake.
Among other things, Zimmerman pointed to separate state and local processes for issuing death certificates to explain why a state file number didn’t appear on the document. And he explained the process for listing a time of death on the document, which Fetzer claimed doesn’t match the time of the shooting.
Zimmerman also submitted an official copy of the death certificate, with the required embossed seal, to the court and argued that Fetzer and Palecek had not asked for the original but had instead relied on “copies of copies of copies that they found somewhere out on the internet.”
Fetzer later acknowledged that the original reasons he called the death certificate a fake were mistaken but claimed other deficiencies with the document proved it was fabricated. He said Pozner’s lawsuit was an attempt to silence him and other Sandy Hook “truthers.”
“This entire case is as fabricated as the death certificate,” he said. “They want more grist for their mill.”
Remington, though, said he found Pozner’s explanations for the alleged deficiencies on the death certificate “legitimate and plausible and persuasive.”
If there are differences among official copies of a document, “that does not alone indicate that any of them are false,” he said. “It only demonstrates a difference.”
Neither Fetzer nor Palecek was represented by an attorney. “Nobody wants to touch” their case, Fetzer said.
Fetzer has also advanced conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11 attacks, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the shootings in Parkland, Florida, and other events.
Zimmerman said a trial to award his client damages is to be set for October. Pozner is asking for $1 million.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Mike Palecek's residence.]