Just five weeks after a Texas jury ordered Alex Jones to pay nearly $50 million to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting, the far-right conspiracy theorist has already been dealt a major setback on the first day of his latest court battle.
Jones and his legal team have displayed a “stunningly cavalier attitude with respect to their discovery obligations,” and “consistently engaged in dilatory and obstructive discovery practices from the inception of these cases, right through to the trial,” Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis said from the bench Tuesday, before forbidding Jones from arguing that he and his company “did not profit from [their] Sandy Hook coverage.”
The trial stems from a lawsuit filed by eight families and retired FBI agent William Aldenberg, who say they were inundated with violent death threats and relentless abuse after Jones declared the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre a hoax.
In reality, 20 children and six teachers died at the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school that day. Jones, who insisted the dead were in fact “crisis actors” playing roles to further a plot by the left-wing for stricter gun control laws, incited his followers to terrorize the victims’ families, the suit argued. And not only did he make their lives a living hell, he also profited handsomely from their pain, it said.
The discovery dispute erupted over a Google Analytics spreadsheet regarding audience numbers for InfoWars, Jones’ online show, which his team allegedly hid from the other side.
Although Jones, who is worth an estimated $270 million, is expected to testify, he did not appear in court on Tuesday.
Instead, Jones broadcast Infowars as normal, during which he claimed his accusers are “lying about us” in between continuing plugs for his “Brain Force Plus” nutritional supplements.
“He is just not able to control himself in any way,” Jones’ ex-wife Kelly told The Daily Beast midway through the first day’s hearings. “He is not a person who has any awareness, like you and I do… The jury trial Alex is facing while he engages in behaviors to con his audience to send him more money will be his day of reckoning.”
On Aug. 6, Jones lost a similar case in an Austin courtroom, which centered on a lawsuit alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress brought by the mother and father of Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old boy who died at Sandy Hook. Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis asked for $150 million. They were awarded $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages, for a total of $49.3 million.
“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Heslin said on the stand.
Jones has already been found guilty of defamation by default for not turning over records in this and a handful of other suits accusing him of targeting innocent people with fantastical—and entirely fictitious—accounts of what really happened at Sandy Hook. At the end of the new trial, which is expected to take about four weeks, a six-person jury will decide on monetary damages.
In opening statements, Chris Mattei, who is representing the eight Sandy Hook families and Special Agent Aldenberg, emphasized the wholly misleading way Jones framed the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Jones told his viewers that the “government staged it,” that “people knew about it in advance,” and that parents were “reading from a script,” Mattei said.
Immediately after a Sept. 24, 2014, article was published on Infowars under the headline, “FBI Says No One Killed at Sandy Hook,” which was obviously not true, Jones’ company earned $232,000 in one day, Mattei told the jury. He then displayed a text message on a screen, reading, “We ended up about $810K yesterday.”
“One day,” Mattei told the jury. “Do the math.”
In his own opening statement, Jones attorney Norm Pattis argued that his client’s accusers have “exaggerated” the extent of the harms they suffered, and claimed they are “transforming their grievances into political weapons.”
When Pattis suddenly veered into criticism of Hillary Clinton for using Jones’ name to “degrade her opponent” during the 2016 presidential campaign, Bellis cut him off and warned Pattis to “finish your opening or be seated.”
After he did it again, and received a second admonishment from Bellis, the ponytailed Pattis continued on, describing Jones as, variously, a “scapegoat,” and a “whipping boy” merely fighting for his First Amendment rights.
“He’s an angry populist warning you about a loss of significance in your own life,” Pattis said. “Ever heard of Davos? The World Economic Forum? He’ll tell you about that.”
But, according to Pattis, “He’s also the guy who worries the chemicals in our water might be turning frogs gay, weather balloons or secret government weapons… trails [from] airplanes that are seeded with toxins that are destroying and controlling us. That Hillary abuses children, that pedophiles run the government, and that people actually eat babies to remain forever young. Which of these messages do we take seriously enough to regard him as a threat we should shut off? At what point do we regard [someone] as the crank on the village green person we can walk away from? … The haters want him silenced.”
The Daily Beast