Court upholds fines against Alex Jones for missing Sandy Hook hearing

The case led to a £1.1bn judgment against Mr Jones for repeatedly calling the 2012 school shooting a hoax.

A Connecticut appeals court on Friday upheld 75,000 dollars (£59,000) in fines against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for missing a deposition in the lawsuit by Sandy Hook families.

The case led to a 1.4 billion-dollar (£1.1 billion) judgment against Mr Jones for repeatedly calling the 2012 school shooting a hoax.

The state Appellate Court said that while Mr Jones claimed an illness and doctors’ recommendations prevented him from attending the questioning in his home town of Austin, Texas, in March 2022, he continued live broadcasts of his Infowars show at the same time.

Mr Jones later did appear for a hearing early the next month in Connecticut and was refunded the 75,000 dollars in fines he paid.

“We agree with the trial court that the undisputed fact that the defendant chose to host a live radio broadcast from his studio … significantly undercuts his claim that he was too ill to attend the deposition,” Judge Jose Suarez wrote in the 3-0 ruling.

“We conclude that the court reasonably inferred … that the defendant’s failure to attend his deposition … was wilful.”

Mr Jones has said he could not sit for the questioning because of a medical problem that included vertigo. He said his doctors first thought it was a serious heart issue, but it later turned out to be a sinus infection.

Mr Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, did not immediately return text and email messages on Friday. It was not clear if he planned to appeal against Friday’s decision to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Mr Pattis had argued in his appeal brief that trial court Judge Barbara Bellis’s contempt finding against Mr Jones and the fine were “manifestly unjust” because she disregarded sworn statements from Jones’ doctors that he was too ill to attend the deposition.

Mr Pattis said that although the 75,000 dollars in fines were small compared with the 1.4 billion-dollar judgment, “the principal and point he seeks to make here is significant”.

He also criticised Ms Bellis for faulting Mr Jones for not providing more information on his medical condition, “effectively asserting that when it comes to civil justice, a court’s need to manage its docket trumps medical confidentiality and advice”.

A lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, Alinor Sterling, said Mr Jones’ criticism of the fines and the judge was baseless.

“Jones flagrantly broke court orders — he claimed he was too sick to attend court proceedings when in fact he was broadcasting his show live — and then he blamed the trial judge for doing her job and imposing consequences,” Ms Sterling said in a statement.

The Appellate Court’s decision came a day after the 11th anniversary of a gunman’s killing of 20 young children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Relatives of some of the victims sued Mr Jones in Connecticut for defamation and infliction of emotional distress for claiming the school shooting never happened and was staged by “crisis actors” in a plot to increase gun control.

Eight victims’ relatives and an FBI agent testified during a month-long trial in late 2022 about being threatened and harassed for years by people who deny the shooting happened.

Strangers showed up at some of their homes and confronted some of them in public. People hurled abusive comments at them on social media and in emails. Some received death and rape threats.

A jury awarded the families and the FBI agent, who responded to the shooting, 965 million dollars (£760 million), and Bellis tacked on another 473 million dollars (£372 million) in punitive damages.

In a similar trial in Texas earlier in 2022, Mr Jones was ordered to pay nearly 50 million dollars (£39 million) to the parents of another child killed in the Sandy Hook shooting for calling the massacre a hoax.

A third trial is pending in Texas in a similar lawsuit by two other parents.

Mr Jones and his media company, Free Speech Systems, both filed for bankruptcy reorganisation, and how much he must pay the Sandy Hook families will be decided by a bankruptcy court judge.

Mr Jones is appealing against the Connecticut and Texas judgments.

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