A Connecticut court has ruled that conspiracy theorist and Infowars founder Alex Jones must pay damages in lawsuits filed by the families of eight people killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, delivering another legal defeat to the far-right broadcaster who falsely said the deadly attack was a “hoax.”
The Monday decision from Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis is the second in less than two months that found Jones liable by default after he and his companies refused to turn over financial records and other documents ordered by the court. The default ruling means Bellis sided with the victims’ families in the defamation case, agreeing that Jones and his attorneys broke court rules. A jury will now decide how much Jones must pay.
The Sandy Hook families have for years argued that Jones profited from his bogus claims that the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, which killed 20 children and six staffers, was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.” The Monday ruling adds to the legal trouble for Jones, who has lost several defamation lawsuits stemming from his Sandy Hook falsehoods and has had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to families who brought the suits.
Reading from her ruling, Bellis said Jones and his attorneys showed a “callous disregard of their obligations to fully and clearly comply with discovery and court orders.”
“Here, the Jones defendants were not just careless,” Bellis said. “Their failure to produce critical documents, their disregard for the discovery process and procedure and court orders, is a pattern of obstructive conduct that interferes with the ability of the plaintiff to conduct meaningful discovery and prevents the plaintiffs from properly prosecuting their claims.”
Norm Pattis, an attorney for Infowars, criticized the ruling as “founded in neither sound law or fact.”
“We like our odds on appeal,” Pattis said in a statement. “It is difficult to get a fair trial for Alex Jones in Connecticut; nearly 10 years later, Sandy Hook still casts a long shadow.”
Chris Mattei, the attorney for the families in Connecticut, praised the ruling as “a legal victory” but said his clients “remain focused on uncovering the truth.”
“Alex Jones and his companies have deliberately concealed evidence of the relationship between what they publish and how they make money,” Mattei said in a statement. “Mr. Jones was given every opportunity to comply but, when he chose instead to withhold evidence for more than two years, the court was left with no choice but to rule as it did today. While today’s ruling is a legal victory, the battle to shed light on how deeply Mr. Jones has harmed these families continues.”
Jones, whom the court admonished for an online tirade against Mattei, took to his website shortly after the judge issued her ruling to decry the legal process in the case.
“I have spent millions of dollars fighting these fraudulent Sandy Hook lawsuits against me and they never wanted me to have my real day in court in front of a jury,” Jones said, reprising baseless claims about a “deep state.” “It’s too dangerous for the establishment that uses those dead children to try to destroy the First Amendment, not just the Second Amendment.”
In 2019, Jones recanted his Sandy Hook comments, acknowledging that the shooting occurred and blaming his false statements on “a form of psychosis.”
In September, a judge in Travis County, Tex., issued rulings similar to Monday’s. The ruling lambasted Jones and his website’s parent company, Free Speech Systems, for having “intentionally disobeyed” the court’s requests and for showing “flagrant bad faith and callous disregard” in withholding key documents.
In the Texas ruling, District Judge Maya Guerra 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.’ ”
After the Connecticut decision was announced Monday, Erica Lafferty — who was once a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and whose mother, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, was principal of Sandy Hook Elementary and died in the shooting — tweeted a single-word reaction: “justice.”
Timothy Bella contributed to this report.