A second trial over the imposition of financial penalties on far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones can continue in Connecticut state court after a federal bankruptcy judge declined a request from Jones’s corner for the transfer of the matter to bankruptcy court.
The trial will deal with the level of financial damages to impose on Jones in connection to false claims he made about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which he characterized as staged. A Texas trial on similar grounds recently ended with a conclusion by a jury Jones must pay tens of millions in damages to a pair of Sandy Hook parents who were impacted by his brazen falsehoods. In both cases, along with a third that’s also in Texas, underlying judgment against Jones was reached by default after he failed to comply with procedural demands associated with the matters — although he claimed on the stand in Texas that he cooperated with the discovery process in that case. (He definitely didn’t.) Thus, none of the trials deal with the question of whether Jones actually perpetrated defamation. The past and future trials simply concern the issue of damages.
During the Texas trial, the parents who brought the original defamation case against Jones outlined some of the damaging and dangerous developments they’ve faced, including in-person confrontations with believers of the conspiracy theory, someone showing up at a family home and snapping photographs, and gunfire targeting their property. In Connecticut, jury selection for the upcoming trial on additional damages against Jones was paused as the Jones legal team pursued the attempt at getting the case moved out of Connecticut state court. As summarized by NBC, the decision by Judge Julie Manning lets the case proceed in state court against Jones in his personal capacity, excluding Free Speech Systems, a main company for the right-wing agitator that was the subject of recent bankruptcy filings.
The legitimacy of the bankruptcy claims was questioned. As the attempt to get the Connecticut case moved makes clear, the effort provided potential legal benefits for Jones, and tens of millions in debt ostensibly accrued at Free Speech Systems is owed to a Nevada-based firm allegedly directly or indirectly owned by Jones and members of his family, according to another lawsuit from Sandy Hook families against Jones. A lot of rhetorical ground in that ongoing case remains.
While on the stand in the recently concluded Texas trial, Jones brought up his claims of bankruptcy, but the presiding judge directed him not to do so again. The process of dealing with the claims in court hadn’t concluded. The judge, Maya Guerra Gamble, repeatedly denied attempts from Jones’s corner to essentially bend the proceedings to Jones’s wishes, including after the revelation of a full copy of the conspiracy theorist’s phone, which was mistakenly provided to the plaintiffs. Jones’s defense unsuccessfully sought the declaration of a mistrial. Meanwhile, Manning wrote in discussion of the Connecticut case that the “plaintiffs’ rights to have that process continue in the Connecticut Superior Court should not be disturbed.” On Monday, Chris Mattei, an attorney for the Connecticut plaintiffs, said: “We’re grateful the bankruptcy court saw through Alex Jones’s brazen effort to block a jury from being empaneled and holding him accountable. We look forward to trial.”