WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Infowars host Alex Jones’ lawyers are trying to get his free speech defense and other claims before a jury to argue that he is not liable for damages for calling the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a hoax years ago.
The effort comes despite a Connecticut judge ruling this month that Jones was liable by default in a defamation lawsuit brought by relatives of some of the victims, saying he repeatedly failed to turn over some documents, including financial records. A hearing on how much the damages should be is planned next August before a jury.
Defendants who are found liable by default in lawsuits are not allowed to present their arguments against liability at hearings on damages unless they filed a “notice of defense,” which Jones and his lawyers did last Wednesday.
Lawyers for the Sandy Hook families, however, plan to argue the jury should not hear Jones’ defenses because the default ruling was disciplinary, Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the relatives, said Monday in an interview after a court hearing in the case. He said he believes Jones lost the right to present his arguments when he was defaulted.
Judge Barbara Bellis ordered both sides Monday to submit briefs on the issue. Jones’ lawyers also plan to appeal the default ruling.
Among Jones’ arguments are that his comments about the shooting were protected by free speech rights and that there isn’t enough evidence to prove defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed in the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, which was portrayed on Jones’ Infowars show as a hoax involving actors aimed at increasing gun control. Jones now says he believes the shooting occurred.
Families of the victims said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy.