Why is Alex Jones being sued by families of children killed in the Sandy Hook massacre?

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Hours after 26 people were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Alex Jones began spouting false claims that the massacre wasn’t real.

Nearly 10 years later, the far-right conspiracy theorist’s inflammatory comments have continued to haunt him as families of the shooting victims – 20 of which were young children – seek to hold him accountable in court.

The most recent developments came this week, when he failed to appear twice for a deposition in a defamation lawsuit brought by the families.

Mr Jones had sought to delay the deposition, citing doctors who said he was too sick to attend despite the fact that he continued hosting his Infowars show.

A Connecticut judge denied his motions to delay, leading lawyers for the families to call for his arrest for contempt of court after he failed to show.

This marks the latest in a years-long legal battle between the far-right personality and the families of the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Here’s what you need to know:

What happened at Sandy Hook?

On December 14, 2012, 26 people were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

That morning, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot dead his mother at their home and then drove her car to the public school for kindergarten through fourth grade students, armed with four firearms.

He murdered 20 students aged just six and seven years old and six staff members before turning a gun on himself.

The massacre – which remains the worst crime in modern Connecticut history nine years on – ignited calls for stricter gun controls in the US.

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The hear of Sandy Hook Elementary school victim Noah Pozner

(Reuters)

What did Alex Jones do?

As the families were left to bury their small children, far-right conspiracy theorist Mr Jones pushed false claims that the mass shooting – and their murders – never even happened.

He even claimed the six and seven-year-olds being mourned never even existed.

Through his radio show and website Infowars, he claimed that the massacre was instead a “false flag” operation engineered by the government to bring about stricter gun control laws and take away Second Amendment rights.

I have claimed that the event was “staged” and “completely fake”, carried out by “actors” as a “giant hoax”.

His conspiracy theories began less than two hours after the mass shooting took place on 14 December 2012.

“There is a reported school shooting in Connecticut – one of the states that has draconian restrictions on gun ownership… The media will hype the living daylights out of this,” he told his listeners.

“Why do governments stage these things? To get our guns!”

Months later, in April 2013, I claimed the evidence the massacre was staged was “overwhelming”.

For years he continued to push the false claims, sharing one video entitled “Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed”, where he claimed that “they had porta potties being delivered an hour after it happened, for the big media event”.

A parent walks away from Sandy Hook Elementary School with her children following the shooting in 2012

(AP)

He further doubled down on his comments in a controversial interview with Megyn Kelly in 2017.

In 2019, Mr Jones appeared to walk back his claims admitting in a deposition that he accepted that the massacre was real and blaming “a form of psychosis” for his ever questioning it.

However, he continued to insist there were “anomalies” in the account of events and that there had been a “cover-up”.

Impact on families

Besides dealing with their unspeakable grief, Mr Jones’ lies took a heavy toll on the families of the victims.

Many were subjected to years of in-person and online harassment and threats from his followers, memorials were defaced and several families moved from the area to get away from the torment.

In 2014, Andrew David Truelove was arrested for stealing memorial signs for the dead children and telling the parents they shouldn’t care because their children didn’t exist in the first place.

In 2020, former Infowars contributor Wolfgang Halbig was finally arrested after spending years allegedly harassing the grieving families and members of the Newtown community, claiming their dead children were played by “crisis actors”.

Police said Mr Halbig repeatedly contacted several families including Leonard Pozner, whose son Noah was murdered in the mass shooting, released their personal information online and emailed them images claiming to be of their dead children.

Meanwhile, Mr Jones financially profited from spreading the lies through his Infowars show.

Daniel Barden was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting

(Sandy Hook Promise/Facebook)

The legal battles

In 2018, a total of 10 families of victims filed four defamation lawsuits in Texas – where Infowars is based – and Connecticut against Mr Jones and Infowars over his false claims.

Last year, judges in all four cases ruled that the families had won the defamation cases and that Mr Jones was guilty by default for failing to provide evidence.

The cases will now go to juries to decide how much the conspiracy theorist must pay to the families in terms of damages and legal fees.

dodging deposit

Mr Jones was slated to sit for a deposition in Austin, Texas, this week – but twice failed to appear.

His lawyers had made a last-ditch attempt to delay the questioning under oath on 21 March, claiming he was too sick to attend – despite appearing on his show for four hours that day. His attorney for him, Kevin Smith, filed a motion including a seven-sentence letter from an unnamed physician who cited unnamed “medical conditions” that mean Mr Jones “is remaining at home”.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis turned down the claim and ordered that the deposition go ahead as planned on 23 March. The judge suggested that Mr Jones’ legal team “unknowingly misled” the court with its attempts to postpone it over his mystery illness pointing out that, at the time he was allegedly sick and being seen by a doctor, he managed to host his Infowars show .

Judge Bellis raised doubts about the physician letter’s authenticity saying she has “no idea” if it is “genuine” or if the doctor is “currently licensed”.

“It appears to the court unreasonable to suggest that Jones can broadcast live for hours, whether it’s from home, remotely, or from a studio but he cannot sit for a deposition,” she told the court in her ruling.

But, despite the judge’s ruling, Mr Jones was a no-show. He was then ordered to appear for the deposition on 24 March, which he also skipped.

In a filing submitted after his first no-show, the victims’ families called on the judge to issue “civil contempt penalties, up to and including the issuance of a writ or order to arrest Mr Jones and bring him before the court to testify” if he failed to show for a second day.

Judge Bellis has not yet indicated whether she plans to take these steps.

Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the victims’ families, called Mr Jones’ refusal to appear for a second time a “cowardly attempt” to escape accountability.

What else?

His conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre are far from Mr Jones’ only legal woes and controversies.

In January, Mr Jones appeared before the House Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot that saw Donald Trump supporters storm the Capitol to try to overturn the election.

He had been subpoenaed to testify after the committee said it had evidence that he was involved in planning and funding Mr Trump’s rally prior to the insurrection and that he promoted the “wild” event on his show.

The committee said he had also led a crowd from the rally to the Capitol.

Mr Jones claimed after the riot that the Trump White House had asked him to “lead the march” from the rally to the Capitol that day.

Following his committee testimony, Mr Jones claimed on his show that he pleaded the fifth “100 times” during questioning.

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www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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