The Supreme Court rejected an attempt by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to overturn sanctions affirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court for his threatening rant against a lawyer for the Sandy Hook victims’ families who sued him for defamation.
The ruling adds to the string of losses that Jones racked up in multiple jurisdictions, where a mountain of potential legal liabilities threatens to bury his empire of conspiracy theories and fake homeopathic cures.
Roughly three years ago, Erica Lafferty—the daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal gunned down in the mass shooting—sued Jones and his InfoWars media empire for repeatedly and falsely claiming on his show that her mother and other victims of the attack were “crisis actors” sent to undermine the Second Amendment. Eight families and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting joined the lawsuit.
In 2019, the families’ case took a bizarre turn as families for the victims learned over discovery that emails that they obtained from InfoWars had child pornography in the attachments. Jones, who has not been accused of opening or even knowing about their existence, spun a new conspiracy theory over that development on his show, alleging a frame-up job.
“You’re trying to set me up with child porn,” Jones fumed on June 16, 2019. “I’m going to get your ass.”
The Jones broadside took particular aim against the families’ lawyer Chris Mattei, a former U.S. Attorney in Connecticut under the Barack Obama administration. Jones held up a picture of Mattei and punched it on his show.
“Oh, nice little Chris Mattei,” Jones said. “What a good American. What a good boy. You think you’ll put on me—anyways, I’m done. Total war. You want it? You got it. I’m not into kids like your Democratic party, you cocksuckers.”
That is the broadcast that led to sanctions against Jones, who sought U.S. Supreme Court review after exhausting his appeals in Connecticut.
Denying the petition without comment, the high court saw no First Amendment issue worth its attention.
The families’ attorney Josh Koskoff celebrated the denial, allowing the “well-deserved sanctions” against Jones to stand.
“The families are eager to resume their case and to hold Mr. Jones and his financial network accountable for their actions,” Koskoff wrote in a statement. “From the beginning, our goal has been to prevent future victims of mass shootings from being preyed on by opportunists.”
Norman A. Pattis, an attorney for Jones who appeared with him on that show, called the Supreme Court’s ruling disappointing.
“Judge Bellis, and the Connecticut Supreme Court, asserted frightening and standardless power over the extrajudicial statements of litigants,” Pattis told Law&Crime in an email. “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.”
The day after the June 2019 broadcast, lawyers for the Sandy Hook families brought the conspiracy theorist’s remarks to the court’s attention. Sanctions proceedings followed a day later, and trial Judge Barbara Bellis found that they were necessary because Jones had accused his opposing counsel of a felony, threatened him in a declaration of war, and called him a “bitch, a sweet little cupcake, and a sack of filth.”
Last July, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed that decision, which ordered Jones to pay legal fees and barred him from pursuing a motion to dismiss.
“It is obvious that the central reason why Jones’ speech was censured and why it ultimately could pose a threat to the administration of justice is its genuine potential to influence the fairness of the proceedings,” the Connecticut Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson wrote in a 34-page opinion. “Specifically, Jones’ broadcast produced additional threats to those involved in the case and created a hostile atmosphere that could discourage individuals from participating in the litigation.”
All of the Connecticut justices concurred with Robinson’s ruling, and the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review the matter.
Update—April 5 at 11:08 a.m. CT: This story has been updated to include comments from attorneys for Jones and the Sandy Hook victims.