Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist and founder of Infowars, is responsible for all damages in two lawsuits stemming from his false claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a “giant hoax,” a judge ruled this week.
District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Tex., issued default judgments Monday against Jones and Infowars after he did not comply with court orders to give information in a pair of 2018 lawsuits brought against him by families of two children killed in the 2012 massacre. Jones repeatedly failed to hand over documents and evidence to the court supporting his damaging and erroneous claims that the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which killed 26 people, 20 of whom were young children, was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.”
Gamble’s ruling, which was unsealed Thursday, lambasted Jones and his website’s parent company, Free Speech Systems, for having “intentionally disobeyed” the court’s requests and showing “flagrant bad faith and callous disregard” in not turning over documents related to this and other lawsuits filed against him. Jones has already lost several defamation lawsuits related to his Sandy Hook falsehoods and was previously ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to families who have sued him. Nine families have sued him over the years.
“An escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties, and non-dispositive sanctions have all been ineffective at deterring the abuse,” Gamble wrote.
The default judgments were first reported by HuffPost.
Mark Bankston, an attorney for the parents filing the two lawsuits, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Bankston said in a statement to CNN that Gamble’s rulings gave the two families “the closure they deserve.”
“Mr. Jones was given ample opportunity to take these lawsuits seriously and obey the rule of law,” Bankston said. “He chose not to do so, and now he will face the consequences for that decision.”
Brad Reeves, Jones’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A statement issued by Jones and Norm Pattis, an attorney for Infowars, described the judge’s rulings as “stunning.”
“It takes no account of the tens of thousands of documents produced by the defendants, the hours spent sitting for depositions and the various sworn statements filed in these cases,” Jones and Pattis said, according to the statement. “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.”
The judge’s rulings are the latest legal troubles for Jones, who has been banned from major platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Spotify for violating their hate speech policies.
The Washington Post reported in February that the Justice Department and FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures — including Jones — may have played a role in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. The probe is part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization.
Jones and Roger Stone, a longtime confidant to former president Donald Trump, promoted the extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. They also had preexisting business or personal ties with members the government has charged with coordinating and planning certain parts of the breach, or who have been linked to violence at an earlier Trump rally, according to The Post.
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Jones, who has lost multiple legal battles over his Sandy Hook comments, eventually retracted his false claims on the school shooting in 2019, blaming his statements on “a form of psychosis.”
“I talk four hours a day, and I can’t remember what I talked about sometimes a week ago,” Jones said in a 2019 deposition.
He was ordered last year to pay almost $150,000 in legal fees after he failed to provide discovery documents for attorneys representing Sandy Hook families.
Gamble’s rulings related to two 2018 lawsuits filed by Sandy Hook parents Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, who lost their 6-year-old son, Noah, and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was also killed in the shooting. Pozner and De La Rosa said they’ve faced emotional distress and have been harassed for years by Infowars fans who have followed Jones’s lead and falsely claimed that the shooting was staged. Neil Heslin, the father of Jesse Lewis, also filed two lawsuits in Travis County against Jones and Infowars; those suits were not included in the judge’s rulings this week.
The Texas Supreme Court in January rejected Jones’s efforts to have the lawsuits tossed out.
On Aug. 31, Bankston appeared before Gamble and argued that Jones should be sanctioned for withholding information that had been requested about three years earlier, such as video of his on-air discussions about Sandy Hook, relevant transcripts from his shows and content of social media accounts connected to the conspiracy theorist and Infowars.
“We still don’t have the most basic information about this case,” Bankston told the judge. “Now we’re talking about having to find people three years out … to see who was involved in this case, who might still have documents. The quality of the evidence and of people’s memories all degrades.”
Frustrated by the lack of cooperation from Jones, attorneys for the parents sought out default judgments — a legal rarity that’s often described as a “death penalty sanction” for someone unwilling to comply with court orders.
Reeves told the Austin American-Statesman last month that a default judgment against his client would be a “hugely excessive” response by Gamble and asked the judge for two weeks to wade through 75,000 pages of documents.
“I need to give him full and complete answers,” Reeves said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
In this week’s rulings, Gamble said Jones showed a “general bad faith approach to litigation” that was supported by “Mr. Jones’ public threats and Mr. Jones’ professed belief that these proceedings are ‘show trials.’ ”
“The Court finds that Defendants’ failure to comply … is greatly aggravated by [their] consistent pattern of discovery abuse throughout similar cases pending before this Court,” Gamble wrote. “The Court finds that Defendants’ discovery conduct in this case is the result of flagrant bad faith and callous disregard for the responsibilities of discovery under the rules.”
A jury is expected to decide the amount Jones owes the families in the two lawsuits.
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