Infowars founder Jones who claimed Sandy Hook shooting was hoax loses defamation cases

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Alex Jones attends a rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and founder of the right-wing website Infowars, has been found liable for damages in a trio of defamation lawsuits filed after he falsely claimed that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was a "hoax."

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in state court in Austin, Texas, ruled that Jones repeatedly failed to comply with court orders to hand over documents to the parents of children killed in the attack.

Jones claimed the shooting, in which 20 children and six school employees were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was fabricated by gun-control advocates and mainstream media.

In response, several parents sued Jones and Infowars, as well as its parent company, for defamation in both Texas and Connecticut. Infowars is based in Texas.

In a deposition linked to one of the suits, Jones eventually acknowledged the massacre had occurred, though he denied wronging the children's parents.

Last year, Jones and Infowars were ordered by a different Texas judge to pay more than $100,000 in court costs and legal fees in one of the cases.

In her ruling this week, Gamble wrote that Jones had engaged in a "consistent pattern of discovery abuse" in numerous cases stemming from the shooting.

Gamble's decision means the defendants will have to pay a still-undetermined amount of damages to the parents of two six-year-old boys killed in the shooting. Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose son Noah died, filed one lawsuit, while the other two lawsuits were brought by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse died.

In a statement, Jones and an attorney for Infowars, Norm Pattis, called the decision "stunning."

"We are distressed by what we regard as a blatant abuse of discretion by the trial court," the statement said.

Social media companies including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have banned Jones from their platforms, citing policies against hate speech and abusive behavior.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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