Sandy Hook families vow ‘public reckoning’ as they refuse Alex Jones’ payout in defamation case

Infowars host found liable for damages in November

Josh Marcus,Rachel Sharp,Megan Sheets
Wednesday 30 March 2022 18:00 BST
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones addresses his thoughts on Sandy Hook shooting being a hoax

Family members of those killed in the Sandy Hook mass school shooting rejected an offer on Tuesday to settle their defamation lawsuit against Infowars host Alex Jones.

The conspiracy theorist, who had previously claimed the shooting was a “hoax”, offered a cash settlement on Tuesday.

He said in a filing in Connecticut court he was offering a “heartfelt apology” and $120,000 per plaintiff to end the case.

“It’s time for the litigation to end,” Mr Jones’s attorney Norm Pattis told Law&Crime. “The shooting took place almost 10 years ago.”

The popular right-wing host was found liable for damages in November in a Connecticut court and is awaiting a trial in May to determine the scope of payment.

Lawyers for the families quickly shut down the offer, telling the Associated Press on Tuesday the settlement was a “transparent and desperate attempt by Alex Jones to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook.”

The Independent has reached out to Mr Jones for comment.

It’s the latest twist in the lawsuit, after Mr Jones twice defied a court order last week to sit for a deposition near his home in Austin, Texas, ahead of the trial.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday where the court will consider sanctioning Mr Jones, who 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.

Mr Jones was set to testify under oath last week on 23 and 24 March as part of settlement proceedings in four lawsuits he lost against the families of victims killed in the 2012 massacre. He was found guilty of defamation in multiple cases last year after he falsely said the massacre that claimed 26 innocent lives was “a giant hoax” and that the six and seven-year-old children murdered were “actors”.

Mr Jones failed to show up for the depositions both days even though a judge turned down his requests to delay, in part because he was seemingly well enough to continue broadcasting his hours-long show - leaving his home on at least one occasion to travel to his studio to film it.

It later emerged that the doctor who advised him that he was too unwell to attend the deposition was the same doctor who appeared on his show on 21 March to attack the Covid-19 vaccines as “poison” and call the US’s top doctor Dr Anthony Fauci “the greatest mass murderer in the history of the world”.

After he missed the deposition for a second time, the attorneys representing the victims’ families urged the judge to find Mr Jones in contempt of court and have him arrested.

Lawyers for the far-right conspiracy theorist made their case for why Mr Jones should not be sanctioned in a court filing on Monday, arguing that sitting for the deposition would cause him “significant stress” and accusing the plaintiffs of “blatantly” asking the judge to overrule his doctors.

Mr Jones’ attorney Norman Pattis cited the coronavirus pandemic in stressing the importance of trusting doctors - something Mr Jones has balked at in the past as he repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the virus and doubted the reliability of vaccines on his Infowars show.

“For the past year and a half, the world has given more deference to medical professionals than any time in human history,” the filing states. “Even courts joined in granting this deference without question, and the world justified that deference as being necessary to protect human life and human health. Many of the recommendations made by doctors were precautionary, and they received the force of law in many instances.

“Here, the Plaintiffs have blatantly asked the Court to substitute its judgment for that of Mr. Jones’ doctors. They have publicly made a pseudo-macho challenge as to Mr. Jones’ courage in the media that has sullied this litigation, publicly accusing him of cowardice for ultimately listening to his doctors.”

Mr Pattis asserted that sitting for a deposition would be a “grueling ordeal” for Mr Jones given his current ailments.

Mr Jones defended himself against the plaintiffs’ efforts to have him arrested in a pre-recorded video on his Infowars website last Thursday - the same day he said he was too unwell to attend the second deposition date.

Titled “Sandy Hook mafia calls for Alex Jones’ arrest: Legendary talk show host responds”, he claimed he was being treated worse than death row prisoners.

“Somebody on death row is allowed to go get their medical treatment and hearings and things are postponed but I’m treated worse than somebody on death row,” he said.

He did not detail the nature of his health issues saying that they are “private”.

Attorneys for the victims’ families, meanwhile, called Mr Jones’ failure to appear at last week’s deposition a “cowardly attempt ... to escape accountability for the years he spent spreading lies about Sandy Hook” in a statement to The Independent.

On 14 December 2012, 20 students aged six and seven years old and six staff members were shot and killed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

In the aftermath, Mr Jones made several false claims on his show and through his website that the mass shooting was a “false flag” operation engineered by the government to bring about stricter gun control laws. Mr Jones later changed course and said the shooting, the worst crime in modern Connecticut history, did occur.

The families of eight of the victims, as well an FBI agent who responded to the shooting, sued Mr Jones, alleging that they were subjected to years of in-person and online harassment over his false claims, all the while Mr Jones financially profited by spreading the conspiracies.

Mr Jones was found guilty by default in four separate suits, which will now head to jury trials to decide how much he has to pay them for damages and legal fees.

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