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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones found liable for defamation in Sandy Hook case

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones lost a long-running defamation case yesterday. He was named in a suit brought by families of some of the 26 victims killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut. The families sued Jones over his repeated and false claims the shooting was a hoax. Diane Orson of Connecticut Public Radio reports.

DIANE ORSON, BYLINE: The claims were outrageous. On his Infowars website, Alex Jones insisted that families who lost loved ones were actors who had faked the death of their relatives. Jones repeated these lies until 2020. Victims' relatives sued Jones in two states for defamation. Jones and his legal team responded by dragging their feet. They failed to provide information demanded by the court. They repeatedly blew past courtroom deadlines.

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BARBARA BELLIS: ...Their failure to produce critical documents, their disregard for the discovery process and procedure and for court orders.

ORSON: Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis issued a default judgment against Jones. She believes the persistent failure by Jones and his attorney to comply with her demands is an obstruction of justice.

CHRIS MATTEI: She was left with no choice but to default him.

ORSON: Attorney Chris Mattei represents the plaintiffs, which include families of eight victims of the Newtown shooting.

MATTEI: When you have somebody like Alex Jones, who is so used to spreading mistruths and, frankly, lying from the security of his own studio in Austin, Texas, and that person then has to come into a court of law where they're required to defend their conduct, defend it under oath, it becomes very, very difficult for him to do that.

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ALEX JONES: Tyranny is now truly here in America.

ORSON: That's Alex Jones in a video posted Monday on the Infowars website. He blasted the ruling as a violation of his constitutional rights. His defense attorney, Norm Pattis, added in a written statement, quote, "We remain confident that in the end, the Sandy Hook families cannot prove either liability or damages."

The Connecticut ruling comes six weeks after a Texas judge issued default judgments against Jones in three similar defamation lawsuits. The case moves now to a jury to decide how much Jones will pay in damages to the families.

For NPR News, I'm Diane Orson in New Haven.

(SOUNDBITE OF KUCHENMANN AND MF EISTEE'S "GELATO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.