HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was fighting a Connecticut court sanction in a defamation lawsuit brought by relatives of some of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Jones was penalized in 2019 by a trial court judge for an angry outburst on his web show against an attorney for the relatives and for violating numerous orders to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers. Judge Barbara Bellis barred Jones from filing a motion to dismiss the case and said she would order Jones to pay some of the families’ legal fees.
Jones argued he should not have been sanctioned for exercising his free speech rights. The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld Bellis’ ruling last year.
The families and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting, which left 20 first-graders and six educators dead, are suing Jones and his show over claims that the massacre was a hoax. The families said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy.
Jones, whose show is based in Austin, Texas, has since said he believes the shooting occurred.
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Jones’ request to hear his appeal without comment.
Jones’ attorney, Norman Pattis, called the court’s decision “a disappointment.”
“Judge Bellis, and the Connecticut Supreme Court, asserted frightening and standardless power over the extrajudicial statements of litigants,” Pattis said in an email to The Associated Press. “Mr. Jones never threatened anyone; had he done so, he would have been charged with a crime. We are inching our way case-by-case toward a toothless, politically correct, First Amendment.”
Messages seeking comment were sent to lawyers for the families of eight victims of the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and the FBI agent.
The sanction came after Jones, on Infowars in 2019, accused an attorney for the families, Christopher Mattei, of planting child pornography that was found in email metadata files that Jones turned over to the Sandy Hook families’ lawyers. Pattis has said the pornography was in emails sent to Jones that were never opened.
“You’re trying to set me up with child porn,” Jones said on the show. “One million dollars, you little gang members. One million dollars to put your head on a pike.”
Jones showed a photo of Mattei, a former federal prosecutor, and said, “I’m done. Total war. You want it? You got it.”
Jones added, “One million dollars when they are convicted. The bounty is out, (expletive). … They’re going to get your (expletive), you little dirt bag. One million, (expletive). It’s out on your (expletive).”
The Connecticut Supreme Court said the sanctions against Jones did not run afoul of the First Amendment because they were imposed due to speech that was an “imminent and likely threat to the administration of justice.” Chief Justice Richard Robinson wrote, “language evoking threats of physical harm is not tolerable.”
Sandy Hook families also sued Jones and others for defamation in other states related to the hoax conspiracy.
In one of the lawsuits, a Texas judge in 2019 ordered Jones to pay $100,000 in legal fees and refused to dismiss the suit. And a jury in Wisconsin awarded $450,000 to one of the parents in his lawsuit against conspiracy theorist writers, not including Jones, who claimed the massacre never happened.