Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been found liable for damages in three defamation lawsuits filed after he falsely claimed the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a “hoax”.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin, Texas, ruled the founder of right-wing website Infowars repeatedly failed to comply with court orders to hand over documents to the parents of children killed in the attack.
She entered default judgements against Jones, Infowars and other defendants for what she called their “flagrant bad faith and callous disregard” to turn over the documents.
The cases will now head to trial for juries to determine the amount of damages Jones and other defendants will have to pay to the families.
Jones claimed the attack, which resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six school employees, was a hoax perpetrated by actors employed by gun-control advocates.
Several parents then sued Jones and Infowars, as well as its parent company, for defamation in both Texas and Connecticut. The cases in Connecticut are pending.
They also claimed they had been harassed and sent death threats from Jones’ followers.
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Jones and Norman Pattis, his attorney, lambasted the Texas judge’s ruling in a statement on Infowars.
“It takes no account of the tens of thousands of documents produced by the defendants, the hours spent sitting for depositions and the various sworn statements filed in these cases,” they said.
“We are distressed by what we regard as a blatant abuse of discretion by the trial court. We are determined to see that these cases are heard on the merits.”
Jones’ lawyers have argued his comments were protected by free speech rights.
However, in a deposition linked to one of the suits, Jones acknowledged the massacre had occurred but denied wronging the children’s parents.
In her ruling, Ms Gamble said Jones had engaged in a “consistent pattern of discovery abuse” in numerous cases related to the shooting.
The lawsuits were brought by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rose, whose son Noah was killed in the shooting, and Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was killed. The children were both six years old.