Far-right host Alex Jones ordered to pay $100,000 in Sandy Hook defamation case
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars notoriety has been ordered by Texas Judge Scott Jenkins to pay $100,000 in court costs and legal fees as part of a defamation lawsuit. The suit charges that Jones’ peddling of a conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax created by the federal government defames the parents of the murdered children by calling them “crisis actors.” Not only is this claim morally repugnant, but the parents say it’s led to real-life threats and harassment.
On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults at the school in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones previously told the viewers of his show that the shooting was a hoax, though he has since said in a sworn deposition that he now believes the shooting was real. He says that a “form of psychosis” made him question whether the mass shooting was real.
Neil Heslin, the father of one of the children killed in Newtown, brought the defamation case against Jones and his website. Heslin says that he’s received numerous death threats from people who bought into Jones’ conspiracy theory. He sued Jones in April 2018, as did other families.
As reported by The New York Times, Judge Jenkins said Jones’ and his website’s lack of cooperation in the case “should be treated as contempt of court.” Jenkins also denied a motion from Jones and InfoWars to dismiss the case in a separate ruling. The Daily Beast reports that the fees break down to $65,825 for ignoring a court order to procure witnesses and documents and $34,323 to cover Heslin’s legal fees. Mind you, the case itself hasn’t even gone to trial yet.
Sadly, Heislin isn’t the only parent who says he’s been harassed because of conspiracy theories. For example, as Daily Kos reported in October, conspiracy theorist James Fetzer, who alleged in a book that Sandy Hook never happened, was ordered to pay $450,000 to another Sandy Hook father, Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old was killed in the shooting. Like Heslin, Pozner has expressed fear for his and his family’s safety because of the pushing of the theory.
One small glimmer of hope? Gun manufacturers might finally be a step closer to facing some accountability in court. As previously covered at Daily Kos, the Supreme Court has recently allowed Sandy Hook families to sue the maker of the gun used in the massacre, Remington Arms Company, which, while not a guarantee of a win in court, is a relative victory in itself.