Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has agreed to allow the company behind his far-right Infowars website to participate in his Connecticut libel case, meaning the two will face trial in Waterbury in September to decide what that they should pay in damages for their false claims that the Sandy Hook school shootings were a hoax.
Free Speech Systems, wholly owned by Jones, told a Texas bankruptcy court on Monday that it no longer opposes the Connecticut lawsuit, removing itself from bankruptcy court protection. The company, along with Jones, will face millions of dollars in damages to relatives of Sandy Hook victims at the trial, tentatively scheduled for September 13.
Jones upended Connecticut’s trial schedule when he filed Free Speech Systems into federal bankruptcy on July 29, a filing that ended all related litigation in state court indefinitely.
Jones cleared a libel suit in Texas, and earlier this month the jury awarded about $49 million to a Sandy Hook family who sued there.
In Connecticut, where the bankruptcy filing came as jury selection was set to begin, Judge Barbara Bellis ordered the lawsuit for damages to continue against Jones alone, who did not file for bankruptcy. Some legal analysts suspect that Jones’ decision to allow Free Speech Systems to participate in the Connecticut case is strategic, in that it will allow him to strengthen his defense.
By Monday evening, six jurors and an alternate had been selected for the Waterbury trial. Bellis asked the attorneys to agree on three more alternate jurors. Free Speech Systems, in the settlement reached in Texas bankruptcy court, accepted the jurors so far chosen.
Twenty-six first graders and educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14, 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into the locked school with a semi-gun. automatic and started executing people. He committed suicide when the police approached.
Family members of murdered children and educators, as well as an FBI agent who was among the first responders, sued Jones for defamation and emotional distress after repeatedly claiming on his radio shows and websites influential that the massacre was a hoax created to increase support. for gun control.
Jones has since acknowledged that the shootings took place.
The September 13 Waterbury damages lawsuit involves the consolidation of three lawsuits filed in Connecticut state court against Jones and various of his companies. The lawsuits were fiercely litigated for four years.
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Late last year, Bellis took the extraordinary step of issuing a default order against Jones in the Connecticut cases for failing to comply with his orders to release information to victims’ families – effectively settling the lawsuit by favor of the families and leaving only the question of damages against him unresolved. A Texas judge issued the same ruling in response to Jones’ apparent efforts to block the case in that state.
Under the settlement reached in Texas bankruptcy court, Connecticut attorney Norm Pattis will continue to defend Jones and Free Speech Systems, with the assistance – as non-appearing counsel – of one of the attorneys Jones Texans, F. Andino Reynal.
Both Pattis and Reynal are the subject of a disciplinary investigation opened earlier this month by Bellis after learning that the highly confidential medical and psychiatric records of the family members suing in Connecticut had been improperly disclosed to the legal team representing the parents who sued in Texas. The recordings were protected by state and federal privacy laws, as well as a detailed order from Bellis.
The investigation has so far revealed that Pattis provided a digital version of the material to one of Jones’ Texas bankruptcy attorneys, who then gave the material to Reynal. Reynal testified that his secretary gave the material to the family’s attorneys suing in Texas, mistaking it for a collection of text messages extracted from Jones’ phone.
Lawyers following the case said the disciplinary investigation could provide Jones with another opportunity to delay proceedings in Connecticut if he suspects Pattis’s defense could be affected by the presiding judge’s investigation.
The bankruptcy court ordered Free Speech Systems to pay Pattis $100,000 a month for September and October, and possibly more if the defense extends to November or beyond. The Connecticut victims agreed to the fee schedule.
The settlement reached in Texas bankruptcy court also requires Free Speech Systems to make its representatives available to Jones and the families suing him.