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Sandy Hook parents v. Alex Jones: Defamation cases explained

Jurors deliberate damages for tormented families in the first of three cases against Alex Jones and Infowars

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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones attempts to answer questions about his emails asked by Mark Bankston, lawyer for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, during trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Wednesday Aug. 3, 2022. Jones testified Wednesday that he now understands it was irresponsible of him to declare the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100% real.”

Briana Sanchez, Austin American-Statesman via Associated Press

Alex Jones, founder of the Infowars radio and web broadcast, awaits jury deliberations which began Wednesday in Austin, TX following a two-week trial.

Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis, a six-year-old slain on Dec 14, 2012, in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, has brought the defamation case against Jones and his companies Free Speech Systems, LLC and InfoWars, LLC, according to Reuters.

The case

Three lawsuits were filed against Jones and his companies in 2018, some claiming they have suffered “a severe degree of mental stress and anguish” due to the false narratives spread by Jones and his media company alleging the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, according to one of the original petitions.

The cases took a surprising turn when the judge granted motions for default judgment, an exceedingly rare ruling, stating Jone’s team “have shown a deliberate, contumacious, and unwarranted disregard for (the) Court’s authority.”

Because Jones did not cooperate with the court authorities, the judge has ruled him and his media companies legally liable for some amount of the damages caused to the families. In the case of Scarlett Lewis, the jury is in the process of deciding how much she is owed.

More defamation cases against Jones

In Texas, two more suits were filed:

  • Niel Heslin, the father of Jesse Lewis, filed a suit with the same default judgment.
  • Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of Noah Pozner, 6, filed another suit with the same attorneys at Farrah & Ball.

In Connecticut, another case against Jones was halted as he declared his company Free Speech Systems, LLC bankrupt, according to court documents. This trial was also ruled a default judgment, and a jury selection was underway to determine the damages owed before it was suspended pending a bankruptcy ruling.

Marcel Fontaine was in the middle of a legal battle with Jones, seeking damages for the media company’s false reporting that he was a suspect in the Douglas High School massacre. After his image was disseminated across the internet, he was allegedly harassed and threatened, per court documents.

Fontaine died in an apartment fire on May 19, 2022, along with three others, however, the lawsuit is continuing on behalf of his estate. The cause of the fire is still under investigation according to NBC.

Years of harassment

Pozner regularly received death threats, as conspiracy theorists believed he was an actor in a hoax. Lucy Richards, 57, was sentenced to five months in prison for harassing Pozner after listening to Infowars according to The Washington Post.

Wolfgang Halbig, a former contributor to Infowars, harassed the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. The New York Times reports that “he repeatedly emailed Mr. Pozner’s Social Security number, date of birth and other information to a long list of recipients,” and was arrested for “unlawful possession of personal identification.”

The harassment and death threats forced the Pozner family to move seven times. They currently live in hiding, per The New York Times.

What to watch

According to a court video, Jones has continued to decry the trial on his web show, though a judge had ordered him to refrain from comment until the proceedings had finished.

This is the first of three cases determining the damages owed to families of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, where 20 children and six staff were killed. According to the Texas Tribune, a large security staff has been called in to protect Lewis and Heslin, due to what their lawyer called “some encounters here in the city of Austin.”