Palm Beach News

Sandy Hook Dad Suing Alex Jones Says South Florida Cop Illegally Accessed His Personal Info

Leonard Pozner has lived through unimaginable pain. His son Noah was shot to death during the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which six adults and 20 children were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut. Then, after that incomprehensible tragedy, conspiracy theorists and gun-rights advocates have continued to harass him. Pozner is suing InfoWars' Alex Jones for defamation after Jones repeatedly claimed Pozner was a fake "crisis actor."

Now, Pozner, who lives in South Florida, claims in a new federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that a local cop in Delray Beach illegally accessed his private, personal information by exploiting the state license-plate database.

The suit does not state why the Delray Beach crime analyst, Rhea-Lyn Gerstenkorn, accessed Pozner's records using the state Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) system, which catalogs every Florida driver's date of birth, photograph, address, phone number, Social Security number, emergency contacts, and other highly personal information.

Could Pozner have been targeted over his work as a gun-safety advocate and his status as a conspiracy-theory magnet? Pozner's lawyer, Mark E. Tieting, says he can't say for sure, but he believes it's "more likely than not" that Pozner's history had something to do with why the cop accessed his personal records.

"Do I think so? Yes," Tieting tells New Times. "We know of no legitimate reason why his information was accessed."

Gerstenkorn and Delray Police did not respond to messages from New Times about the lawsuit.

Florida cops are frequently caught misusing DAVID for personal reasons, for everything from stalking ex-lovers to harassing police critics. Tieting also represented Donna Jane Watts, a Florida Highway Patrol officer who pulled over a Miami cop, Fausto Lopez, for driving at 120 mph on Florida's Turnpike in 2011. She later stated in lawsuits that she was the victim of a massive harassment campaign by her fellow officers because cops are usually supposed to ignore low-level lawbreaking among their "own kind." In retaliation for stopping Lopez — a demonstrably unsafe driver — Watts says, she was the victim of a massive smear campaign in which officers prank-called pizzas to her home and smeared human feces on her car. She said 88 cops from 25 police departments accessed her private information through DAVID.

In Pozner's case, he says one Delray PD employee, Gerstenkorn, viewed his private information three times August 12, 2017. The suit says Pozner filed a records request with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that year to double-check if any officers had been accessing his private files through the database. Under Florida law, it's illegal for cops to access DAVID information unless it's part of a police investigation. Pozner says there was no investigation when Gerstenkorn accessed his file. He is seeking $95,000 in damages.

Pozner and his ex-wife, Veronique de la Rosa, have frequently been targets of right-wing and conspiracy-theorist attacks online. In addition to Jones, Pozner says, former Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy — a Sandy Hook "truther' who believes the government faked the attack in order to repeal the Second Amendment — repeatedly harassed Pozner and his family at their home. Pozner wrote in a 2015 Sun Sentinel op-ed that Tracy sent Pozner's family "a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image." The Pozners wrote that they then called the cops to report Tracy for harassment, to which Tracy then upped the ante by blogging more fervently about the Pozner family. (Tracy was eventually fired from FAU for allegedly filing incorrect paperwork and hiding his outside employment from the school. He then sued the school and lost.)

But thanks in large part to InfoWars, Pozner and de la Rosa have been targeted by significantly more people than just Tracy. Pozner says he was forced to move seven times since the massacre and regularly receives death threats from people who think he staged the tragedy. (YouTube search results for "Leonard Pozner" still turn up thousands of conspiracy theorists' videos.) In July 2018, Pozner and de la Rosa also wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg in which they begged the Facebook CEO to take greater action against conspiracy theorists spreading hoaxes on his social network.

"Our families are in danger as a direct result of the hundreds of thousands of people who see and believe the lies and hate speech, which you have decided should be protected," Pozner and de la Rosa wrote. "What makes the entire situation all the more horrific is that we have had to wage an almost inconceivable battle with Facebook to provide us with the most basic of protections to remove the most offensive and incendiary content."

In addition to suing Delray Beach, Pozner's suit against Jones remains open in Texas court. Jones in August lost a bid to have the case thrown out Wired magazine in August said that no matter the outcome, the case "will help redefine free speech" in the internet age.