In a defamation case brought by parents of children slain in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, a Connecticut court held Infowars host Alex Jones guilty by default Monday in a defamation lawsuit over the conspiracy theorist’s allegations that the massacre was a fake.
The judge’s decision, which highlighted Jones’ failure to follow court orders or turn over evidence, means a jury will decide how much Jones should pay the families in damages.
Jones went on his program shortly after the judge’s judgment and claimed that he had been denied a fair trial.
“These people, once again, are refusing to let me have a jury trial because they know the things they claim I committed didn’t happen,” he explained. “They are well aware that they do not have a case for damages.” So the judge has ruled that you are liable for damages, and now a jury will decide how guilty you are. It’s not guilty unless and until it’s proven guilty.”
Jones and his companies, Infowars and Free Speech Systems, failed to turn over documents, including records, that could have shown how and if they profited from spreading misinformation about the school shooting and other mass killings, according to Judge Barbara Bellis, who took the unusual step of issuing a default judgment in the case.
Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, said he intends to challenge Bellis’ default judgment.
“Neither the law nor the facts support the judgment,” Pattis wrote in an email. “We remain optimistic that the Sandy Hook family will be unable to establish either responsibility or damages in the end.” We believe their attorneys are aware of this, which explains the frantic attempt to achieve a default.”
Bellis has been pulled from the case by his lawyers, who claim she has not been impartial.
The decision is the same as if the case had been decided in favor of the families by a jury. The damages will now be decided by a jury.
In the December 2012 incident, twenty first-graders and six educators were slain. Officials say the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their Newtown home before the massacre and then committed suicide inside the school as police approached.
Jones’ Infowars broadcast depicted the massacre as a fake employing actors intended to increase gun control. Jones has recently admitted that the school shooting did have place.
Because of the bogus conspiracy propagated on Infowars, victims’ families claim they have been harassed and threatened with death by Jones’ followers. Jones and his firms were sued for slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The damages hearing before a jury is anticipated to take place next year.
“What’s clear from Judge Bellis’ ruling is that Alex Jones and the Jones defendants have engaged in a long, continuous course of misconduct in this case designed to prevent the plaintiffs from getting evidence about Mr. Jones’ business and about his motives for publishing lies about them and their families,” said Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for eight of the victims’ relatives who sued Jones in Connecticut.
Parents of several of the children murdered in the incident received messages.
In three defamation cases brought by Sandy Hook families in Texas, a Texas court recently made identical decisions against Jones, finding him accountable for damages after defaulting him and his corporations for not handing over evidence. Damages hearings have also been ordered.
Jones was ordered to pay $100,000 in legal expenses in one of the claims by a Texas court in 2019, who refused to dismiss the case. In Wisconsin, a jury awarded one of the parents $450,000 in a lawsuit against conspiracy theory writers, including Jones, who claimed the massacre never happened.
Jones had already been sanctioned in the three Connecticut cases for failing to comply with several requests to turn over papers and for an emotional outburst against Mattei on his online program. Jones was blocked from submitting a request to dismiss the lawsuit by a court, a decision that was affirmed following an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which declined to hear Jones’ appeal in April.