Victims' families sued conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for defamation after people harassed them over 'staging' the shooting.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of gun violence that some readers may find distressing
Alex Jones, a popular conspiracy theorist, and right-wing commentator has been ordered to pay damages to families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting after he claimed it was nothing but a 'giant hoax.' A judge found him legally responsible in two lawsuits for damages caused by his claim on the 2012 school mass shooting, according to court documents, reported CNN. Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that Alex Jones lost the cases by default after stating that Jones and or his outlet, Infowars, complied with court orders to provide information for the lawsuits brought against him by the parents of two children killed in the shooting. A jury will be convened to estimate how much he will owe the plaintiffs, reads the report.
Jones had lied about the December 2012 shooting in Connecticut being a "giant hoax" carried out by crisis actors by those opposing the Second Amendment. On December 14, 2012, a total of 26 people, including 20 young children, were killed by shooter Adam Lanza at the Sandy Hook school before eventually killing himself. Jones said a 'form of psychosis' made him believe the school shooting was staged. The families of victims said they had been targeted and harassed by those who followed Jones' lead. Pozner and De La Rosa, who lost their 6-year-old son, Noah to the shooting filed a case against him.
Several of the victims' families sued the right-wing commentator for defamation in Texas and Connecticut courts. Before giving the ruling, the court noted Jones' "general bad faith approach to litigation, Mr. Jones’ public threats, and Mr. Jones’ professed belief that these proceedings are ‘show trials,’” wrote Gamble. The Texas judge ruled that Jones had "intentionally disobeyed" court orders to hand over the documentation related to lawsuits against him. "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," wrote Gamble in her rulings. "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."
Mark Bankston, an attorney for the parents, said the rulings provided much-needed closure for the parents. "Mr. Jones was given ample opportunity to take these lawsuits seriously and obey the rule of law. He chose not to do so, and now he will face the consequences for that decision," said the attorney. Jones had acknowledged in 2019, in court, that he no longer believes the shooting was fake and included it as part of his sworn deposition in the defamation case brought against him.
A statement was posted on Infowars, referring to the court ruling 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," read 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."
Default judgments are rare. Houston attorney Bill Ogden told the Huffington Post, “It is extremely rare that a party (Alex Jones and Infowars) is ordered by the Court to comply with discovery, is sanctioned for failing to obey with the Court’s multiple Order(s), and then continues to blatantly disregard the Court’s authority by continuously refusing to comply,” Ogden said in an email.