Infowars host who called Sandy Hook shooting a 'giant hoax' loses suits because of discovery abuse
Alex Jones. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is liable by default in three defamation lawsuits filed over his claims that the December 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was a “giant hoax.”
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the Texas 459th District Court entered default judgments because Jones and Infowars didn’t turn over requested information in three suits by parents of two children killed in the shooting. The failure to comply with discovery was aggravated by a pattern of “discovery abuse” in multiple cases before her court, she said.
Gamble wrote in one of the lawsuit orders that a default judgment was necessary because “an escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties and nondispositive sanctions have all been ineffective” at deterring the discovery abuse.
The discovery misconduct “is the result of flagrant bad faith and callous disregard for the responsibilities of discovery under the rules,” Gamble wrote.
The suits were filed by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the parents of slain first grader Jesse Lewis, and Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of slain first grader Noah Pozner.
The Sept. 27 decisions were made public Thursday.
The Austin American-Statesman summarized the plaintiffs’ lawsuit claims. Lewis alleged that Jones called the shooting “as phony as a three dollar bill.” Pozner and De La Rosa said Jones claimed that the shooting was a hoax intended to limit gun rights. Heslin said Jones disputed his claim that he held his slain son in his arms after the shooting.
In all three orders, Gamble said it is clear that the discovery misconduct is due to the client and not any attorney, since the defendants have been represented by seven attorneys over the course of the suits.
The next step in the suits is a trial to determine damages for defamation and emotional distress.
Houston lawyer Bill Ogden, one of the lawyers presenting the parents, told the Austin American-Statesman that his clients are thrilled with the decision.
“In Texas, we call [default judgments] death penalty sanctions,” Ogden said. “We learn about them in law school, but … none of [the] lawyers I’ve spoken with have ever had this happen. It’s like a unicorn of the law. … But we’ve never seen such blatant disregard for a court’s authority the way we have here.”
Jones and Infowars lawyer Norm Pattis released a statement on the Infowars website.
“It is not overstatement to say the First Amendment was crucified today,” the statement said. “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 Infowars have been sued by a total of nine families for Sandy Hook denials. Twenty first graders and six adults were killed in the shooting by gunman Adam Lanza, who killed himself.
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