By Sonia Moghe, CNN
A Connecticut judge is holding notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in contempt of court after he failed to comply with multiple orders for Jones to sit for a deposition in a defamation suit brought against him by families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. The judge did, however, stop short of issuing a warrant for Jones’ arrest, which the plaintiffs had requested.
Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis announced her decision at a hearing Wednesday, saying Jones “intentionally failed to comply with orders of the court” and that there is no adequate explanation for why he did not follow her orders to sit for a deposition.
“The court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant Alex Jones willfully and in bad faith violated without justification several clear court orders requiring his attendance at his depositions on March 23 and March 24,” Bellis said.
Until he sits for a deposition, Bellis ordered, Jones will have to pay fines that will start at $25,000 a day on April 1 and increasing by $25,000 each business day.
“It is clear…that the plaintiffs here simply want and are entitled to the deposition of Mr. Jones and that Mr. Jones has continued to attempt to deliberately disregard the court’s orders and attempts to manipulate the court process,” Bellis said Wednesday. “While paying the fees and court’s costs will reimburse the plaintiffs for costs incurred in attempting to procure Mr. Jones’ deposition, it is not a substitution for his testimony.”
Bellis had ordered Jones to sit for a deposition in the case over two days last week but Jones did not appear. Last Thursday, Jones’ attorney Kevin Smith told CNN that Jones was “following his doctor’s advice” not to leave the home and to avoid stressful activities. Bellis had denied a previous request from Jones to delay the deposition due to an undisclosed medical condition, saying “the medical issues, while potentially serious, are not currently serious enough to either require his hospitalization, or convince him to stop engaging in his broadcasts.”
At the same time that Jones’ attorneys were arguing during a hearing last week that their client was not well enough to sit for a deposition and was under doctor’s orders not to leave his home, he was hosting a live show on his Infowars website at a studio away from home, his attorneys confirmed in a court filing.
During Wednesday’s arguments over what sanctions, if any, should be levied against Jones, another of his attorneys, Cameron Atkinson, said that Jones has already sat for multiple depositions in other Sandy Hook cases, and that Jones “has never sought to indefinitely delay his depositions.” Atkinson argued against issuing a warrant for Jones’ arrest, saying that it would exacerbate his health issues, and said that escalating fines “are sufficient to procuring Mr. Jones’ attendance.”
Christopher Mattei, an attorney representing the Sandy Hook families, argued during the hearing that Jones should be incarcerated until he is deposed to show that the penalties for failing to comply with the court’s orders “are not worth it.”
“It seems to us that Mr. Jones has made a deliberate decision that he would rather suffer the contempt of court rather than expose himself to deposition,” Mattei said.
Mattei declined to comment further on Bellis’ ruling. Though she did not order his arrest, Bellis said the plaintiffs can pursue an arrest warrant for Jones with Texas courts.
Attorneys for the Sandy Hook families were preparing to depose Jones as part of a suit originally filed in 2018 after he repeatedly called the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in which 20 children and six adults were killed a hoax carried out by crisis actors. Jones has since acknowledged in another deposition that the shooting was real.
Bellis said the contempt “will be purged” if and when Jones completes two full days of depositions at plaintiffs’ law offices in Connecticut by April 15, and that he can also request reimbursement for fines he incurs.
Aktinson requested that the law office adjusts its Covid-19 protocols for Jones, which he said includes wearing a mask, “something Jones is not willing to do.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong year for when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred. It was 2012.
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