A Texas judge found Alex Jones, host of the radio show InfoWars, liable for damages in three defamation lawsuits brought by the parents of two children who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting over his claims it was a hoax. He has since acknowledged that the shooting did occur.
The rulings, which could potentially be appealed, were released on Thursday after being issued on Monday. The Austin judge cited Jones’ pattern of bad faith in dealing with lawsuits in issuing the default judgement. Jones and InfoWars now will have to pay the parents of the victims for defamation and emotional distressed caused by the broadcasts in which he called the shooting a hoax.
District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble wrote in three similar statements, “In considering whether lesser remedies would be effective, this Court has also considered Defendants’ general bad faith approach to litigation, Mr. Jones’ public threats, and Mr. Jones’ professed belief that these proceedings are ‘show trials.’”
Guerra Gamble said motions granted for a default judgement are rare but appropriate in this case because previous sanctions, including $150,000 in court-ordered penalties, were unsuccessful in changing Jones’ behavior.
Bill Odgen, a lawyer for the parents with the Farrar and Ball law firm in Houston, said, “It’s been a long time coming for these parents, and we’re happy with the way it worked out.” He later spoke to the rarity of default judgements.
“In Texas, we call [default judgements] death penalty sanctions. We learn about them in law school, but … none of [the] lawyers I’ve spoken with have ever had this happen. It’s like a Unicorn of the law,” he said. “But we’ve never seen such blatant disregard for a court’s authority the way we have here.”
Jones, in a statement from the InfoWars website, said the default judgement was “stunning.” Jones and InfoWars laywer Norm Pattis wrote, “Nothing less than the fundamental right to speak freely is at stake in these cases. It is not overstatement to say the First Amendment was crucified today. 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.”
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: PBS.ORG
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