WATERBURY, Conn. (CN) — A judge presiding over the defamation case brought by families of Sandy Hook shooting victims against Alex Jones has imposed a series of escalating fines to compel the conspiracy theorist and radio host 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,” said Judge Barbara Bellis after a hearing Wednesday to determine additional sanctions in the case.
Bellis said starting on April 1, she will impose conditional fines on Jones for every weekday he does not sit for questioning, starting with $25,000. The amount of the fine imposed each day will increase by $25,000 until he “successfully completes a whole day’s deposition,” Bellis said. On this scheme, just five days’ fines would total $375,000 owed to the court.
Bellis then noted that Jones could ask the court for reimbursement after he sits for his deposition that will “purge himself of the contempt.”
But if Jones does not complete his deposition by April 15, then Bellis said she would consider preventing Jones from presenting certain evidence at trial or stopping his attorneys from cross-examining witnesses, for instance.
The Sandy Hook families have said the narratives Jones has constructed about the shooting — such as falsely stating the children’s deaths were faked — has left them exposed to years of harassment while making him millions. Jones already lost the four-year-old case, which is pending in a Connecticut court, after Bellis imposed default judgment in November. The question that will be posed to a jury later this year will be about damages.
Jones was scheduled to sit for two days of questioning last week in Austin, Texas. Then came the filing made by Jones’ attorneys seeking to delay the deposition. Jones’ attorneys said he was at home under the care of a doctor — an allegation that was rebutted during the emergency hearing when one of the attorneys for the Sandy Hook families pointed out that at that moment, Jones appeared to be in his studio, broadcasting.
“God help everyone if in fact that broadcast was from his studio, in light of these arguments,” Bellis said at the hearing last week.
Later, Jones’ attorneys confirmed that Jones had in fact left his home to broadcast in his studio but also argued Jones’ medical condition was serious enough that a doctor had urged him to go to the emergency room or call 911.
Despite Bellis’ orders rejecting Jones’ motion for protective order and telling him to show up for the deposition, Jones did not show up Wednesday or Thursday morning.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Christopher Mattei of the firm Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder said it appeared that Jones made a choice: He would rather be in contempt of court than answer questions during a deposition.
Mattei, who helps represent the Sandy Hook families, asked Bellis to “set conditions that will coerce” Jones to sit down for two days of questioning, even suggesting in a brief that Jones be incarcerated if it would bring him to the deposition room.
“What we want more than anything else is for Mr. Jones to sit for his deposition,” Mattei said.
Cameron Atkinson of the firm Pattis and Smith warned against issuing an arrest warrant for his client, Jones, given the health problems he experienced last week.
“We would submit that issuing an arrest warrant for Mr. Jones procuring his incarceration would only serve to exacerbate those health concerns,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said Jones could sit for his deposition on the week of April 11 but later in the month Jones had to prepare for a trial in Texas. No longer held in Austin, the deposition is scheduled be held at the Koskoff firm’s offices in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Noting his reluctance to put it on the record, Atkinson said he understood the firm representing the Sandy Hook families instituted protocols to stop the spread of Covid-19 in its office, including a mask-wearing policy. That is “something that Mr. Jones is not willing to do,” Atkinson said.
On Tuesday, Jones’ attorneys offered a compromise to the 13 plaintiffs in the case: $120,000 each.
“Mr. Jones extends his heartfelt apology for any distress his remarks caused,” one of the offers read.
The rejection came quickly and in full:
“The so-called offer is a transparent and desperate attempt by Alex Jones to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook,” attorneys for the Sandy Hook families wrote.
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