A Massachusetts man is in fear after right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Texas-based InfoWars website falsely identified him as the gunman who killed 17 people at a Florida high school in February, the man’s lawyer says.
Marcel Fontaine has been harassed personally and seen conversations on the Internet where “people have wished him dead,” Fontaine’s attorney Mark Bankston said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his Houston office.
“With this particular media organization, the fears that Mr. Fontaine has are far beyond what they would be with any other organization,” Bankston said, “partly because it has been InfoWars’ strategy to recklessly publish false information as part of their attempt to drive fear and paranoia in their audience — and all of these things are very scary to Mr. Fontaine. He is not doing great.”
Bankston said his client, who lives in Central Massachusetts, would not be granting interviews. Fontaine responded to a Facebook message Monday night by referring a Globe reporter to his lawyer.
Fontaine on Monday filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones and InfoWars in a state district court in Austin, Texas. Florida authorities have charged Nikolas Cruz with capital murder in the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Bankston said his client lives in Massachusetts and has never been to Florida.
In the complaint, Fontaine said InfoWars posted his photograph on its website the day of the shooting, depicting him as the high school gunman and labeling him a ‘‘commie’’ supported by the Islamic State group.
His attorneys claim InfoWars targeted him because of a novelty T-shirt he was wearing that depicted intoxicated Communist Party figures (“partying”). The InfoWars article was redistributed by numerous right-wing websites.
Fontaine’s attorneys described Jones’s career as ‘‘recklessly opportunistic’’ for the ways he misleads his listeners.
‘‘Mr. Jones feeds his audience a steady diet of false information intended to convince them that a shadowy association of global elites are hatching countless insidious schemes to destroy their way of life or threaten their bodily fluids,’’ the 22-page complaint states.
“All it takes is one crazy reader,” Bankston said in the telephone interview. He said his client had been subjected to an amount of hostility that “Marcel never would have been subjected to had his picture not been published.”
“It’s been pretty hard,” Bankston said. At first, Fontaine kept a brave face about it. But later, “he started to see things online that were very disturbing.”
“He saw [online] individuals who seemed to believe that he was part of a grand conspiracy to conduct a ‘false flag’ operation,” the lawyer said. “He’s seen references to, ‘He might be a member of the Deep State’ — these sorts of things.”
Bankston said he expected the case could go to trial sometime in 2019. “We’re very confident that an [Austin-area] jury, which are Mr. Jones’s neighbors and peers, that they’re the appropriate people to decide what happens here,” he said.
Fontaine ‘‘continues to suffer harassment and peril even from individuals aware of his identity as a Massachusetts resident but who nevertheless remain convinced he was part of a horrifying conspiracy,’’ the complaint said.
Fontaine demanded a correction Feb. 26, but Jones and InfoWars did not respond.
Fontaine seeks unspecified damages exceeding $1 million. An e-mail to InfoWars seeking comment Tuesday afternoon wasn’t immediately returned.
Sean Smyth of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.