Texas Supreme Court: Alex Jones, InfoWars can be sued by Sandy Hook parents after calling massacre a 'hoax'

Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman
·3 min read

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday rejected, without comment, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' attempt to toss out four defamation lawsuits by parents of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

The parents sued in Travis County, where Jones and his InfoWars website are based, arguing that they were defamed and suffered emotional distress after InfoWars broadcasts disputed the authenticity of the school shooting and the news coverage that followed.

Twenty young children and six adults died in the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Friday's action by the Supreme Court upheld rulings by two lower courts that had allowed the lawsuits to continue.

The state's highest civil court also gave the green light to another defamation lawsuit against InfoWars and reporter Kit Daniels by a man mistakenly identified as a suspect in the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The photo of Marcel Fontaine, who was not the shooter, remained on the InfoWars website for 13 hours, and no correction was issued at the time explaining the mistaken identification, court records show.

Related: In Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook deposition, a persona undone

Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. It was the worst school shooting in the country's history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. It was the worst school shooting in the country's history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Friday's Sandy Hook rulings will allow four lawsuits to proceed:

• Neil Heslin, father of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, filed two lawsuits taking exception to statements by Jones alleging that the school shooting at Sandy Hook was "a giant hoax" and disputing Heslin's claim that he had held his dead son in his arms afterward.

• Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis, noted statements by Jones that the school shooting was "as phony as a three-dollar bill" as well as other statements on InfoWars implying that parents were not genuinely grieving the loss of their children.

• Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, quoted broadcasts in which Jones cast the school shooting as a "false flag" hoax intended to create a pretext for the government to limit gun rights.

Friday's announcement by the Supreme Court noted that two members, Justices Jeff Boyd and John Devine, would have granted Jones' petition for review in the Pozner lawsuit, but the court order provided no reasons for their dissent.

In briefs to the Supreme Court, lawyers for Jones argued that the InfoWars host was engaging in protected speech because he was addressing matters of public concern.

"The pursuit of so-called 'conspiracy theories' concerning controversial government activities has been a part and parcel of American political discourse since our Founding, and it is protected by the First Amendment," they told the court in a brief for the Pozner and De La Rosa case.

Jones also argued that state libel laws required any harmful speech to be directed at specific family members, but the Sandy Hook families were not named in three InfoWars reports in 2017.

More: Alex Jones must pay legal fees for ‘frivolous’ Sandy Hook appeal

But a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families argued that Jones didn't merely say the school shooting was staged by the government, he also generally accused family members of being actors to help sell a supposed coverup and exploit the event to attack gun rights.

As a result, Jones and InfoWars accused family members of collusion in a hoax "relating to the murder of their son ... for nefarious purposes," lawyer Mark Bankston told the court.

Jones also was reckless in publishing information that was so improbable that no reasonable publisher would have done likewise without substantial confirmation, Bankston argued.

"Mr. Jones' fantasy about a shadowy government conspiracy to murder first-graders and then exploit the event with the help of the media and actors is the very definition of 'improbable,'" he wrote.

Bankston welcomed the court's action Friday. "We are pleased Mr. Jones is learning that his frivolous efforts to delay this case will not spare him from the reckoning to come," he said.

Lawyers for Jones did not respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Alex Jones can be sued by Sandy Hook parents, Texas Supreme Court says