A civil trial in Texas begins Tuesday to determine how much Alex Jones owes in defamation damages to the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims after he falsely claimed the massacre was a “giant hoax,” according to his attorney. Unspecified medical problems may prevent the right-wing conspiracy theorist from attending the trial.
During jury selection on Monday, Jones’s attorney, F. Andino Reynal, told the Austin courtroom that the Infowars founder “has medical issues” that may prevent him from attending portions of the trial, even though he “has no obligation to be here.”
After the jury was chosen, the defense attorney told KXAN in Austin that he had spoken with Jones’ doctors and “made the decision that [Jones] shouldn’t be here.”
While Reynal did not specify what “medical issues” might prevent the 48-year-old from attending the trial in person, Jones has previously blamed stress and cardiovascular effects from his coronavirus infection for missing depositions in the Connecticut trial last year. Jones was also fined $25,000 per day by a Connecticut judge for failing to appear for court-ordered depositions in March.
Years after claiming that the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history — in which 26 people were killed in Newtown, Conn., 20 of them young children — was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors,” Jones faces another financial blow. While Jones has since admitted to the shooting and blamed his false claims on “a form of psychosis,” he has been barred from major platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify for violating their hate-speech policies. He also filed for bankruptcy protection for his conspiracy website, Infowars, before the Texas trial was scheduled to begin in April.
Jones has been found liable for damages in lawsuits stemming from his false claims by judges in Connecticut and Texas. Last October, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Texas, issued default judgments against Jones and Infowars, ruling that Jones failed to comply with court orders to provide information in a pair of 2018 lawsuits brought against him by the families of two children killed in the 2012 massacre. Jones repeatedly failed to turn over documents and evidence supporting his damaging and false claims to the court.
Jones has previously been ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to families who have filed lawsuits against him. Over the years, nine families have sued him.
Gamble’s 2021 rulings were in response to two 2018 lawsuits filed by Sandy Hook parents Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, who lost their 6-year-old son, Noah, and Scarlett Lewis, who also lost her 6-year-old son, Jesse, in the shooting. Pozner and De La Rosa claimed they have been subjected to emotional distress and harassment for years as a result of Infowars fans who have followed Jones’ lead and falsely claimed that the shooting was staged.
Jones admitted earlier this year on his Infowars website that he had missed pretrial depositions for the 2021 trial in Connecticut due to health issues related to covid-19. Jones has been chastised by the Food and Drug Administration and health experts for promoting and selling products on his website that he falsely claimed would “boost your immune system” against the virus.
Jurors in Austin, where Infowars is based, will not hear evidence about the defamation claims but will instead decide how much Jones must pay the victims’ families in compensatory and punitive damages. While Jones has claimed in court filings that he has a net worth of $0, attorneys for the Sandy Hook families have pointed to records that show Jones’ Infowars store made more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018.
Daria Karpova, an Infowars producer, and Daniel Jewiss, the Connecticut State Police’s lead investigator in the Sandy Hook shooting, are among those expected to testify Tuesday. Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, Jesse Lewis’ parents, are also expected to testify at the trial.
The trial, according to the judge presiding over the case, is expected to last two weeks. According to the News-Times, she urged jurors not to read or watch any news about Jones or the case.