It was the first of two legal blows dealt to the far-right broadcaster on Wednesday. Later in the day, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis found him in contempt of court for dodging two court-ordered depositions scheduled last week in his Austin hometown. He will face fines that begin at $25,000 per weekday on Friday and increase by $25,000 for every weekday he does not comply.
Lawyers for the families had wanted him arrested.
The Sandy Hook relatives’ refusal of Jones’s offer sets the stage for the sides to meet at trial. A jury is to decide how much Jones will pay over his false assertions that the Newtown, Conn., shooting — which left 20 elementary schoolchildren and six adults dead — was “a giant hoax.”
The defamation case has already been decided in favor of the families. In one of a series of legal defeats for Jones over his Sandy Hook falsehoods, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled in November that Jones was liable by default after he and his companies refused to turn over documents as required by the court.
In a statement posted to his website before Wednesday’s hearing, Jones said he had a “genuine and long-standing” desire to resolve the lawsuit, noting that the Sandy Hook shooting was “almost a decade behind us.” He portrayed the families’ lawyers as “ambulance chasers” and suggested they aim to destroy “Infowars.”
“We are not going to be driven out of business by ambitious lawyers or those who hate dissent,” he said.
The families behind the lawsuit, including relatives of four children and two educators killed in the shooting as well as a first responder who was at the scene, have waged the legal battle against Jones for years. They argue in court records that he has profited from spinning “outrageous, malicious and deeply hurtful lies” he knows to be untrue by suggesting that the shooting was a “false flag” operation perpetuated by “crisis actors.”
His baseless theories, they say, have come with real-life consequences.
“As a result of Jones’s campaign, the families and survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting have been forced to endure malicious and cruel abuse at the hands of ruthless and unscrupulous people,” said the complaint filed in 2018. “On a regular basis, the families and survivors have faced physical confrontation and harassment.”
Jones recanted his Sandy Hook comments in a 2019 deposition, blaming them on “a form of psychosis.” The settlement offer he extended Tuesday gave a few vague words of contrition: “Mr. Jones extends his heartfelt apology for any distress his remarks caused.”
But the families and their lawyers were not appeased. Attorney Christopher Mattei criticized Jones’s absence in the previous week’s scheduled depositions as “a cowardly display intended to cheat the plaintiffs of their right to put him under oath and ask him questions,” Connecticut Public Radio reported.
In seeking Jones’s arrest, the families’ attorneys said his “strategy of obfuscation and delay tactics is now all too familiar territory.”
Jones responded with an “Infowars” post titled “Sandy Hook Mafia Calls For Alex Jones’ Arrest: Legendary Talk Show Host Responds.” In it, he claimed he was “treated worse than somebody on death row.” His lawyers said in court records that he had willingly sat for depositions in other Sandy Hook litigation and was merely “listening to his doctors.”
Bellis, however, ruled that he had “willfully and in bad faith violated without justification several clear court orders requiring his attendance at his depositions,” Reuters reported. If he completes the deposition by April 15, she said, he can clear the contempt ruling, though he will face fines for every weekday he refuses.