Alex Jones faces fines for skipping Sandy Hook deposition
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut judge said Wednesday Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will be fined for each weekday that passes without him appearing for a deposition in a lawsuit brought by relatives of some victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The penalties were in response to Jones defying court orders to attend a deposition last week, when he cited a health problem including vertigo that later turned out to be a sinus infection. His testimony is being sought ahead of a trial to determine how much he should pay in damages to the families for pushing a conspiracy theory that the massacre never happened.
The penalties will begin at $25,000 per weekday beginning Friday and increase by $25,000 per weekday until he appears for a deposition, Judge Barbara Bellis said. She found Jones in contempt of court orders and repeated her view Wednesday that letters submitted by Jones’ doctors did not include enough evidence that he was too ill to attend last week’s deposition. She noted Jones appeared on his website show — either in-person or by phone — every day last week.
“The court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant, Alex Jones, willfully and in bad faith violated without justification several clear court orders requiring his attendance at his depositions,” Bellis said during a court hearing held by video conference.
Bellis, a judge at Waterbury Superior Court, also ordered the deposition to be held at the Bridgeport, Connecticut, office of the families’ lawyers, instead of Austin, Texas, where it was scheduled last week. Austin is home to Jones and Infowars.
The judge, however, again denied a request by lawyers for the Sandy Hook families to order Jones arrested and detained until he could appear at a deposition. The attorneys first made the request last week.
Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, criticized Bellis’ ruling and planned to appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday.
“The judge’s order is shocking and an insult to the medical doctor who advised Alex not to attend court proceedings,” Pattis said in an email to The Associated Press. “We regard the order as lawless and unprecedented.”
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, said during the hearing that the families were seeking penalties because Jones violated court orders and appeared to be attempting to avoid the deposition.
“So what we’ve tried to do … is change that calculus, make it clear to Mr. Jones that the penalties that will accrue to him as a result of his further noncompliance are not worth it and that he should sit for deposition in order to avoid them,” Mattei said.
A new deposition date was not immediately set. Cameron Atkinson, another Jones lawyer, said Jones would next be available to testify on April 11.
Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed in the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their Newtown home before the shooting, and killed himself at the school as police arrived, officials said.
The families of eight of the victims and an FBI agent who responded to the school sued Jones, Infowars and others in Connecticut, saying they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy promoted on his show. Jones has since said he believes the shooting did occur.
On Tuesday, Jones’ lawyers filed court documents that offered to pay $120,000 per plaintiff to settle the lawsuit and offered an apology for “any distress his remarks caused.” The families’ lawyers rejected the offers.
Jones was found liable for damages to the families in the Connecticut lawsuit as well as to some Sandy Hook families who sued him in Texas. Judges in both states found Jones liable by default without a trial, saying he repeatedly refused to abide by court rulings and provide requested evidence to the families’ lawyers.
Jones and his lawyers said he has turned over thousands of documents to the families’ lawyers and sat for depositions in the Texas cases.
Trials are scheduled later this year in Connecticut and Texas to determine how much Jones should pay the families.