Family members of some victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have won a court battle by default against right-wing media personality and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars website.
A Monday ruling from a Connecticut court — which found Jones and the other defendants liable for defamation — brought swift reaction from an attorney representing the families Sandy Hook victims, high-profile politicians and those defending Jones in the suit.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis cited the defendants' "willful noncompliance" with the discovery process as the reasoning behind the ruling. Bellis noted that defendants failed to turned over financial and analytics data that were requested multiple times by the Sandy Hook family plaintiffs.
Attorney Chris Mattei, who represents victims' families in the suit, said in a statement the plaintiffs were "grateful" for Monday's ruling but said their "battle to shed light on how deeply Mr. Jones has harmed these families continues."
"Mr. Jones was given every opportunity to comply, but, when he chose instead to withhold evidence for more than two years, the Court was left with no choice but to rule as it did today," Mattei said. "While the families are grateful for the court's ruling, they remain focused on uncovering the truth."
On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six educators at the Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Lanza fatally shot his mother at their home before going to the school. He killed himself as police moved in.
However, the shooting was portrayed on Jones' Infowars talk show as a hoax to push the supposed political will of the left — involving actors aimed at increasing gun control.
The families of 10 victims pursued a defamation suit in Connecticut against Jones and his media holdings for perpetuating the false narrative that the shooting was a hoax.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. — a member of the U.S. House at the time of the shooting who was sworn into the Senate less than a month later — told MSNBC he has continued to stay in touch with the families of those killed in Sandy Hook.
"These families have been victimized over and over again," Murphy said. "First, by losing their loved ones, and second, by having to deal with the terror of a conspiracy theory movement that thinks they are all actors, thinks they are all politically motivated, thinks this was all done as a stage act to try to promote a political agenda in Washington."
Murphy, who filibustered on the Senate floor in 2016 and gave an emotional speech on gun control, said some of the victims' families have gone into seclusion because of the harassment they've faced from Jones' followers.
"It's sick — and I'm glad that, at least today, several families from Sandy Hook have their day in court and have been able to reach some justice," Murphy said.
The case in Connecticut now falls in the hands of a jury to decide what, if any, damages the victims' families would be entitled to. A status conference has been scheduled for Wednesday.
Attorneys for the defendants indicated they would pursue an appeal, Reuters reported Monday.
"We remain confident that, in the end, the Sandy Hook families cannot prove either liability or damages," said Infowars' attorney Norm Pattis. "We think their lawyers know this; hence, the desperate effort to obtain a default."
"Thank God for appellate courts," Pattis added.
Separate court rulings in Texas last month amounted to similar legal victories for the parents of two children killed at Sandy Hook. In a deposition linked to that case, Jones acknowledged the shooting did occur.
But Jones also claimed he did not wrong the plaintiffs in that case.
Correction: November 16, 2021 12:00 am — A previous version of this story incorrectly said Adam Lanza killed himself as police surrounded his home. He shot himself in the school as police closed in.