November 15, 2021: Judge Finds Alex Jones Liable by Default in Sandy Hook Elementary Defamation Suit
On Monday, November 15th, a superior court judge in Connecticut ruled that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was liable by default in a defamation lawsuit brought by the parents of a Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victim.
Judge Barbara Bellis issued the default judgement after years of Jones’ refusal to turn over financial and web analytics data that had been ordered by the court.
In her ruling, Bellis criticized Jones’ attorney for providing only “sanitized, inaccurate” financial records and showed “callous disregard” for her repeated rulings to provide complete analytics data. She found Jones’ attorneys actions “were not just careful” but constituted “a pattern of obstructive conduct” requiring the most severe sanction of default, what she called a “last resort,” as reported by the Hartford Courant.
“Neither the court nor the parties can expect perfection when it comes to the discovery process,” Bellis read to the attorneys from her written ruling. “What is required, however, and what all parties are entitled to, is fundamental fairness that the other side produces information which is within their knowledge, possession and power and that the other side meet its continuing duty to disclose additional and new material.”
A default judgement means that the case will go directly to a jury to decide damages. Last month, a district court judge in Travis County, Texas also issued a default judgement against Jones for failing to comply with discovery requests in two defamation suits brought by the families of two Sandy Hook shooting victims.
Hartford Courant NY Times
September 27, 2021: Judge Issues Default Judgement In Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook Defamation Suits
A district court judge for Travis County, Texas issued a default judgment against Alex Jones for failing to comply with discovery requests in the defamation suits brought by two families in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. The shooting, which occurred on December 14, 2012, resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six adult school staff members.
“The Court find that Defendants unreasonably and vexatiously failed to comply with their discovery duties. The Court finds that Defendants’ failure to comply with discovery in this case is greatly aggravated by Defendants’ consistent pattern of | discovery abuse throughout the other similar cases pending before this Court,” reads the ruling by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble.
The rulings mean that the suits will proceed to trial to determine how much Jones and his media company, Infowars, will pay the parents for defamation and emotional stress. Jones has repeatedly called the Sandy Hook shootings a “hoax,” and has gone so far as to accuse one of the shooting victim’s parents of being a paid actor rather than a grieving parent.
In her ruling, Gamble noted that she chose to take the rare step of issuing a default judgement against Jones because other sanctions, including paying at least $122,250 for parents’ legal fees, have failed to make Jones comply with the court’s orders.
“However, the Court has more than a sufficient record to conclude that an escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties, and non-dispositive sanctions have all been ineffective at deterring the abuse. This Court rejects lesser sanctions because they have proven ineffective when previously ordered,” Gamble wrote.
“Furthermore, in considering whether lesser remedies would be effective, this Court has also considered Defendants’ general bad faith approach to litigation, Mr. Jones’ public threats, and Mr. Jones’ professed belief that these proceedings are ‘show trials’,” the judge added.
According to the Austin American Statesman, Jones called the default judgement “stunning.” “Nothing less than the fundamental right to speak freely is at stake in these cases. It is not an overstatement to say the First Amendment was crucified today,” Jones and InfoWars lawyer Norm Pattis wrote on the InfoWars website. “We are distressed by what we regard as a blatant abuse of discretion by the trial court. We are determined to see that these cases are heard on the merits.”
Austin American Statesman Judgement
April 5, 2021: U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down Appeal from Alex Jones
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected hearing an appeal from Alex Jones on April 5th. Jones was appealing a court sanction imposed by Connecticut Trial Court Judge Barbara Bellis after he made alarming comments on his radio show, Infowars, about an attorney for the families of the Sandy Hook victims. The Court announced its decision without a written explanation.
In July 2020, the Connecticut Supreme Court characterized Jones’ comments as an “imminent and likely threat to the administration of justice,” and therefore the sanctions were not inconsistent with the First Amendment.
The sanctions include a prohibition on Jones filing a motion to dismiss the ongoing defamation lawsuit against him.
Jones’ attorney said that the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court was “a disappointment.”
January 25, 2021: Texas Supreme Court Says Defamation Suits Against Alex Jones Can Continue
On January 22nd, the Texas Supreme Court rejected conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ request to toss four defamation lawsuits filed by parents whose children died in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The parents filed the suits in Travis County, Texas, where Jones’ and his media company, InfoWars, are based. The suits claim that Jones’ statements calling the mass shooting a “giant hoax,” and accusing the parents of faking their children’s death were defamatory and caused the families emotional distress.
Defamatory statements are one of the few categories of speech that the First Amendment does not protect. For private persons, such as the victims’ parents, to prove that another person’s speech defamed them, they need to show that the defendant’s statements were false and harmful, and that they published them carelessly.
See also: Can First Amendment Defenses Save Provocateur Alex Jones From The Sandy Hook Libel?
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Jones’ lawyers claimed that his statements were protected under the Texas Citizens Participation Act because he was speaking on a matter of public concern.
“The pursuit of so-called ‘conspiracy theories’ concerning controversial government activities has been a part and parcel of American political discourse since our Founding, and it is protected by the First Amendment,” the lawyers wrote in a brief for one of the lawsuits.
Mark Bankston, the attorney representing the parents, dismissed this notion in a response filed on behalf of Neil Heslin. “[A]ccusing Mr. Heslin of lying about holding the body of his dead son does not amount to a matter of public concern,” Bankston wrote.
The ruling, first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, also gave a fifth plaintiff permission to continue with his defamation lawsuit against InfoWars and reporter Kit Daniels for mistakenly labeling him as a suspect in the 2018 mass shooting at Parkland High School.
July 23rd, 2020: Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Sanctions Against Alex Jones
The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld a lower courts’ sanctions against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for threatening the attorney and law firm representing Sandy Hook families in a defamation case against Jones.
“[T]he sanctions did not run afoul of the First Amendment because they addressed speech that was an imminent and likely threat to the administration of justice. Accordingly, it was not an abuse of the trial court’s discretion to sanction the defendants for their discovery violations and Jones’ vituperative speech,” the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on July 23rd.
In 2019, Jones accused Charles Mattei, and his law firm, Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, of planting images of child pornography on his computer to discredit him. In an angry outburst during a live broadcast, Jones appeared to ask his fans to target Mattei.
“I pray for divine intervention against the powers of Satan. I literally would never have sex with children. I don’t like having sex with children. I would never have sex with children. I am not a Democrat. I am not a liberal. I do not cut children’s genitals off like the left does. And so, if they want war — you know, it’s not a threat. It’s like an AC/DC song. If you want blood, you’ve got it. Blood on the streets, man,” Jones said in a televised broadcast.
On the same broadcast, Jones pounded a picture of Mattei and shouted, “I’m gonna kill … Anyway I’m done. Total war. You want it, you got it.”
The ruling allows the defamation suit to move towards a jury trial in the fall.
March 27, 2020: Texas Appeals Court Rejects Alex Jones’ Motion to Dismiss Heslin Defamation Suit
On March 25th, the Texas Court of Appeals rejected Infowars founder Alex Jones’ motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by Neil Heslin, whose son was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The judge has ordered Jones to pay Heslin $22,250 in attorney fees, making the total amount Jones now owes Heslin just under $150,000.
Heslin sued Jones in April 2018 over false statements he made on his site, claiming that the mass shooting in Sandy Hook was a government hoax and the victims’ parents were “crisis actors”. A number of Jones’ readers went on to harass families of Sandy Hook victims, including the Heslins, causing them significant emotional distress.
Jones has tried on multiple occasions to have the lawsuit dismissed on free speech grounds, albeit with little success.
In October 2018, Jones was ordered to pay $25,000 for failing to comply with a discovery order. Then, in December 2019, a Texas district court judge ruled against Jones’ motion to dismiss Heslin’s lawsuit, finding that Heslin had met the standard for defamation under state law. The district judge ordered Jones to pay an additional $100,000 in legal costs to the attorneys representing Heslin.
In his opinion, Judge Scott H. Jenkins affirmed the district court’s denial of Jones’ motion to dismiss.
“We affirm the district court’s dismissal of Appellants’ motion to dismiss, and we grant Heslin’s motion for sanctions and award him $22,250 for attorney’s fees,” Jenkins opinion reads.
Huffington Post Opinion
December 20, 2019: Alex Jones Ordered to Pay $100,000 in Legal Fees in Defamation Lawsuit
On December 20th, a Texas district court judge ordered Alex Jones to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees in a defamation suit brought by the father of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.
The defamation suit brought by Neil Heslin is one of several suits filed against Jones by the families who lost children in the school shooting on December 14, 2012. Following the massacre, Jones repeatedly stated on his website, Infowars, that the shooting was a hoax and had been staged by the U.S. government in an attempt to confiscate Americans’ guns.
The order by Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins comes after Jones ignored a court order to provide documents and witnesses. Jenkins also ruled against a motion from Jones’s attorneys to dismiss the suit, adding additional legal fees that brought the amount that Jones has had to pay to $126,024. (Jones was ordered to pay $25,875 last October for failing to comply with another ruling.) A trial date for the Heslin case has not yet been scheduled.
In an email to the Daily Beast, Heslin’s lawyer, Mark Bankston, said that the suit could have been avoided if Jones had accepted responsibility for his lies and his harassment of Heslin and other Sandy Hook parents. “Instead, Mr. Jones seems to prefer exiting into the dustbin of history in the most expensive and embarrassing way possible,” Bankston wrote.
Daily Beast Hartford Courant CNN
December 12, 2019: Lawyer files motion in Heslin v Jones case to hold Jones and Infowars liable without trial
Mark Bankston, the attorney representing Neil Heslin in his defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones, filed a motion on December 12th, 2019 asking that the judge hold Jones and Infowars liable without trial.
In his motion, Bankston argues that the defendants committed “willful and flagrant discovery abuse.” This behavior allegedly includes refusing to make good faith efforts to answer written discovery or respond at deposition, withholding tens of thousands of emails relating to Sandy Hook, and erasing many of the computers prior to collection efforts.
“Defendants have been given ample opportunity to take these lawsuits seriously and obey the rule of law,” the filing said. “Yet despite a rotating cast of counsel, Defendants have remained stubborn in their refusal to respect the integrity of the proceedings.”
The jury wouldn’t decide whether Jones’ was guilty, it would only be used to determine the amount of damages Jones. The motion is scheduled to be heard by the court on Wednesday, December 18th.
July 10, 2019: Connecticut Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Alex Jones’ Appeal to Review Trial Court’s Sanctions
The Connecticut Supreme Court has agreed to review Alex Jones appeal regarding sanctions imposed by a trial court judge over alleged threats to lawyers in Sandy Hook case.
On June 17, 2019, trial Court Judge Barbara Bellis denied Jone’s lawyers requests to pursue a special motion to dismiss the lawsuit by the Sandy Hook families. She also ordered Jones to pay for all legal fees associated with an incident that occurred during the discovery process when dozens of emails from Jones and Infowars were found to contain child pornography. An investigation cleared Jones of any wrongdoing, and revealed that none of the emails had ever been opened.
In his 10-page appeal to the Supreme Court, Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, argues that the penalties imposed on his client are too harsh, and threaten his First Amendment rights to speak on a matter of public interest.
According to the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut Supreme Court will now hold “a full hearing on Pattis’ appeal” in which they “could overturn Bellis’ ruling” and “restore Jones’ right to possibly have the case dismissed.”
The hearing will likely take place in September.
June 24, 2019: Alex Jones Hit With Sanctions, His Attorney Requests Connecticut Supreme Court to Review
The lawyer defending Alex Jones in the defamation suit brought the parents of some of the Sandy Hook victims has asked the Connecticut Supreme Court to review sanctions imposed on Jones by a trial judge.
On June 18, Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis imposed the sanctions during an emergency hearing after Jones threatened the Sandy Hook families’ attorney, Christopher Mattei, on Jones’ webcast.
Jones’ rant was triggered by a recent revelation that a dozen emails retrieved from him and his Infowars website during the discovery process had images of child pornography attached. The FBI investigated, and determined that they were sent to Jones from outside of his organization, and no one ever opened the files to view the images.
On his televised webcast, however, Jones accused Mattei and his law firm, Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, of planting the images, and made threatening comments towards Mattei and his firm.
Norm Pattis, Jones’ lawyer, is arguing that his client was only exercising his First Amendment right to speak on a matter of public interest.
May 2, 2019: Alex Jones and InfoWars Banned on Facebook
Facebook is banning some controversial, well-known figures for violating the social media giant’s policies on hate speech and promoting violence.
The list includes Sandy Hook-denier Alex Jones, right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, conspiracy theorists Laura Loomer and Paul John Watson, Louis Farrakhan, who promotes anti-Semitic views, and Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who ran for Congress in 2018.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook representative said Thursday in a statement. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
The ban includes their individual Facebook accounts, fan pages, and groups affiliated with them. These individuals are also banned from Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.
Jones, who has spread his conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook school mass shooting on his InfoWars site, was temporarily banned on Facebook last year. His official fan page was also banned, but Jones was allowed to keep his personal account.
The new prohibition makes all of Jones’ temporary bans permanent, bans Jones from having a personal Facebook account, and extends more broadly to fan pages and videos that promote InfoWars.
According to Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, nonprofit that monitors conservative misinformation online, says that recent mass shootings and other acts of violence caused by online hate speech prompted Facebook to finally take action.
“The reality is, people are getting killed. There are mass shootings and mass murders that are clearly being connected to ideas like white genocide, which are fueling radicalization,” Carusone told The Washington Post. “The conditions have changed. When you have these massive catalyzing moments that are connected to real-life consequences, it puts pressure on Facebook and others to look in the mirror.”
Facebook isn’t the first social media platform to ban some of these polarizing figures. In recent years, Twitter has temporarily or permanently banned Jones, Loomer, Nehlen, and Yiannopoulos for their inflammatory content.
Los Angeles Times The Washington Post
April 1, 2019: Under Oath, Jones Admitted His Opinion Was Wrong But Blamed “Psychosis”
During a three-hour long taped deposition as part of a defamation case brought by some of the families of the Sandy Hook victims, Alex Jones claimed he had a “form of psychosis” that caused him to question whether certain events like the Sandy Hook mass shootings were staged.
“And I, myself, have almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I’m now learning a lot of times things aren’t staged,” Jones said in a video released by Kaster Lynch Farrar & Ball LLP, a Texas law firm representing some of the families.
Jones blamed the “the media” for leading him to distrust everything.
“So long before these lawsuits I said that in the past I thought everything was a conspiracy and I would kind of get into that mass group think of the communities that were out saying that,” he said. “And so now I see that it’s more in the middle… so that’s where I stand.”
Jones also acknowledged that some of his reporting was based off of Internet sources like YouTube and 4Chan.
Regardless, Jones would not admit that his conspiratorial claims caused the families pain, and described the lawsuits as an attack on him and on the First Amendment.
“I was stating that I was reporting on the general questioning when others were questioning. And, you know, it’s painful that we have to question big public events. I think that’s an essential part of the First Amendment in America. And I do not take responsibility for the entire train of things that lawyers and the media have said I’ve done.”
CNN NBC Deposition Videos
February 7, 2019: Judges Have Advanced The Cases In Favor Of The Sandy Hook Families In The Past Few Weeks
The New York Times reports on a series of legal victories in favor of the Sandy Hook families in three lawsuits against Alex Jones and Infowars.
In Texas, a judge ordered Jones and Infowars representatives to submit to questioning by the lawyers of one Sandy Hook mother, and also granted access to the company’s business records against the wishes of Jones’ lawyers, who wanted them to remain sealed.
In Connecticut, a judge ordered Infowars’ business associates and partners to testify, and will soon rule on the deposition of Jones himself and other Infowars associates, as per the families’ request.
The New York Times
January 11, 2019: CT Superior Court Judge Grants Sandy Hook Families’ Discovery Request To Access Infowars’ Internal Documents And Communications
The six families suing Alex Jones and Infowars in Connecticut over repeated defamatory comments about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre were granted a legal victory in their case. The judge ruled that the families can gain access to Infowars’ financial and marketing documents, contracts between Infowars and platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and any communications including letters, emails, and text messages related to Sandy Hook, Adam Lanza, crisis actors, or mass shootings. According to an attorney for the families, this documentation is meant to corroborate the claims made in the lawsuit to prove that Alex Jones is a “conspiracy profiteer.” The judge will decide whether to let the plaintiffs’ legal team depose Jones at a hearing scheduled for this week.
The New York Times ABC News Hartford Courant
August 17, 2018: Motion Accuses Jones Of Intentionally Destroying Evidence Related to Suits
Lawyers representing the families of two Sandy Hook shooting victims accused Alex Jones of intentionally destroying evidence related to the lawsuit. According to the motion filed, Jones said on his broadcast that he instructed his staffers to delete select content like social media messages and videos, some of which was considered evidence in the Sandy Hook case.
The New York Times Motion
August 1, 2018: First Of 3 Defamation Suits Against Jones Reaches Courtroom
Lawyers for Alex Jones are fighting to dismiss a defamation case brought against him and his site Infowars by parents of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting under the Texas Citizens Participation Act. His attorneys are arguing that what Jones says on his show is not fact, but rather his opinion. According to Reuters, an attorney for Jones told the judge, “Maybe it’s fringe speech. Maybe it’s dangerous speech, but it is not defamation.”
The judge has 30 days to rule on a motion to dismiss the case.
The New York Times Reuters Buzzfeed News
July 24, 2018: Alex Jones Compares Himself To Storied Watergate Journalists In Effort To Dismiss Lawsuit
In an attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit, Alex Jones of Infowars compared himself to Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, The Washington Post journalists who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, saying he acted like a journalist when he questioned the narrative of the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.
Lawyers for Jones wrote in his filing for dismissal: “Such journalism, questioning official narratives, would be chilled if reporters were subject to liability if they turned out to be wrong….To stifle the press (by making them liable for merely interviewing people who have strange theories) will simply turn this human tragedy into a Constitutional one.”
Bill Bloss, an attorney for the families said in many news reports that, “The First Amendment simply does not protect false statements about the parents of one of the worst tragedies in our nation’s history. Any effort by any of the defendants to avoid responsibility for the harm that they have inflicted will be unsuccessful.”
CBS News The Associated Press Motion to Dismiss
May 24, 2018: More Sandy Hook Families File Defamation Lawsuit Against Alex Jones For False Stories Promoted on Infowars
Six families of Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent filed a third lawsuit Wednesday against Alex Jones and his businesses for repeated claims he made on his Infowars show that the 2012 massacre was a hoax. The families are suing on defamation, invasion of privacy by false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The suit, filed in Superior Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, comes after two other suits that were filed last month in Texas by two other Sandy Hook victim families. The complaints from all eight families allege that Jones used his internet and radio platforms to push the conspiracy theory that the shooting in Newtown was a staged event. It lists a campaign of abuse starting from December 19, 2012 through June 26, 2017. On a complaint listed for January 13, 2015, the parents allege that during the broadcast of The Alex Jones Radio Show, Jones said, “…Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I though they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.” The complaint says that “a reasonable person would understand these statements to assert that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged, and that the plaintiffs fabricated the deaths of their loved ones.”
The lawsuit claims that while Jones’ false accusation brought him attention and business, the plaintiffs suffered personal pain and abuse from the radio and internet personality and his fans.
The New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson writes that Jones claims First Amendment protection for his work and that the most recent lawsuit filed challenges that defense. “The First Amendment has never protected demonstrably false, malicious statements like the defendants’,” it reads.
New York Times The Daily by The New York Times NBC News
Connecticut Law Tribune
April 17, 2018: Sandy Hook Parents Take on False Stories Promoted by Alex Jones in Defamation Suit
The 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre which killed 20 children and 6 adults galvanized parents and relatives of those murdered to promote gun reform. One conservative commentator who responded negatively to their efforts: Alex Jones and his Infowars which ran segments claiming the massacre at Sandy Hook was “a giant hoax.” Jones’ followers have continued to harass Sandy Hook families. Now Leonard Pozner and his former wife, Veronique De La Rosa, parents of Noah Pozner, and Neil Heslin, the father of Jesse Lewis, have responded by filing two defamation suits against Alex Jones stating “defendants’ defamatory statements were knowingly false or made with reckless disregard for the truth.” They are seeking at least $1 million in damages. This is the second time this year Alex Jones has been sued for defamation. In March, Brennan Gilmore sued Jones for stories that led to threats against him.
New York Times Reuters TV Reuters