Infowars host Alex Jones was found in contempt of court Wednesday for failing to show up to his deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by the families of those who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The Connecticut judge who handed down the ruling, Barbara Bellis, said Jones will be fined $25,000 per weekday until he has sat for two days of depositions. The penalty will begin Friday and will increase by $25,000 for each successive weekday Jones does not appear for his depositions.
Jones was due to be deposed last week on March 23 and 24 but failed to show up, claiming illness. Bellis says there isn’t enough evidence to show that health problems were a valid reason for Jones’ absence, as he has not been hospitalized.
In fact, while lawyers for Jones argued in a hearing last week that their client was ill and on doctor’s orders not to leave his home, he was hosting an Infowars show live at a studio outside his residence.
Infowars is an American far-right media website famous for sharing conspiracy theories and fake news. Jones used the show as a platform to spread a hoax that the Sandy Hook shooting never occurred.
Bellis said in Wednesday’s hearing, “It is clear … that the plaintiffs here simply want and are entitled to the deposition of Mr. Jones and that Mr. Jones has continued to attempt to deliberately disregard the court’s orders and attempts to manipulate the court process.”
“While paying the fees and court’s costs will reimburse the plaintiffs for costs incurred in attempting to procure Mr. Jones’ deposition, it is not a substitution for his testimony.”
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer representing the families of Sandy Hook victims, argued that a warrant should be made for Jones’ arrest for flouting the court orders.
“It seems to us that Mr. Jones has made a deliberate decision that he would rather suffer the contempt of court rather than expose himself to deposition,” Mattei said.
While Bellis did not grant the request, she did say that the plaintiffs could pursue an arrest in Texas, where Jones resides.
In November 2021, Bellis ruled that Jones was liable for defaming the Sandy Hook shooting victims.
After the 2012 shooting took place, resulting in the deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six educators, Jones told his large audience that the massacre was a “giant hoax” carried out by crisis actors. He also claimed that the event was set up by opponents of the Second Amendment in the U.S.
Families of the Sandy Hook victims said they have since been subject to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the conspiracy theory promoted on his show.
Jones eventually retracted his claims that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, when in a 2019 sworn deposition Jones claimed it was a form of “severe psychosis” that caused him to believe and spread conspiracy theories, including that the massacre was staged.
On Tuesday, the families of the Sandy Hook victims rejected a proposed settlement from Jones for $120,000 per plaintiff.
Representatives for the families wrote that 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.”
A jury will determine the amount of damages Jones is to pay to the Sandy Hook families.
Bellis said that Jones’ contempt conviction “will be purged” once he has completed his full deposition in Connecticut by April 15. He can also request reimbursement for the fines following the completion of his court duty.
A lawyer for Jones requested that the Connecticut law office grant a stay of its COVID-19 protocols, and allow Jones to give his deposition without wearing a mask — as wearing the protective equipment is “something Jones is not willing to do.”
— with files from Global News’ Sarah Do Couto