Court upholds Alex Jones sanctions in Sandy Hook case
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a sanction against Infowars host Alex Jones over an angry outburst on his web show against an attorney for relatives of some of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, who are suing him for defamation.
The court issued a 7-0 decision rejecting Jones' claims that his comments aimed at attorney Christopher Mattei were protected by free speech rights, and upholding a lower court's ruling that Jones violated numerous orders to turn over documents to the families' lawyers.
The lower court judge barred Jones from filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, as a penalty for his actions.
The families of eight victims of the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and an FBI agent who responded to the massacre are suing Jones, Infowars and others for promoting a theory that the shooting was a hoax. A 20-year-old gunman killed 20 first-graders, six educators and himself at the school, after having killed his mother at their Newtown home.
The families said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy.
Jones, whose show is based in Austin, Texas, has since said he believes the shooting occurred.
The sanction came after Jones, on Infowars last year, accused Mattei of planting child pornography that was found in email metadata files that Jones turned over to the Sandy Hook families’ lawyers. Jones' former lawyer, Norman Pattis, who argued the case before the state Supreme Court, has said the pornography was in emails sent to Jones that were never opened.
“You’re trying to set me up with child porn,” Jones said on the show. “One million dollars, you little gang members. One million dollars to put your head on a pike.”
Jones mentioned Mattei by name and pounded on a picture of Mattei while saying, “I’m gonna kill ... Anyway I’m done. Total war. You want it, you got it.”
In Thursday's decision, Connecticut Chief Justice Richard Robinson wrote, “We recognize that there is a place for strong advocacy in litigation, but language evoking threats of physical harm is not tolerable.”
Pattis, who withdrew as Jones' attorney without explanation in May, said Thursday that he could no longer speak on behalf of Jones.
“Personally, I'm disappointed by the Supreme Court’s lackluster commitment to the first amendment,” Pattis said in an email to The Associated Press. “I hope Mr. Jones seeks U.S. Supreme Court review.”
An email message seeking comment was sent to Jones and Infowars on Thursday.
Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, said in a statement that the ruling was a win for the integrity of the court system.
“As other branches of government show signs of cracking under the weight of threats and falsehoods, this ruling reminds us that the courtroom is still a sacred place that remains dedicated to the truth, to precedent and to long-established rules created over centuries,” he said.
Sandy Hook families sued Jones and others in several states for defamation related to the hoax conspiracy.
Last year in one of the lawsuits, a Texas judge ordered Jones to pay $100,000 in legal fees and refused to dismiss the suit. And a jury in Wisconsin awarded $450,000 to one of the parents in his lawsuit against conspiracy theorist writers, not including Jones, who claimed the massacre never happened.