Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Connecticut: 5 things to know

Photo of Rob Ryser
Alex Jones speaks to the media before entering court for day five of the Sandy Hook defamation damages trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Waterbury, Conn. Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

Alex Jones speaks to the media before entering court for day five of the Sandy Hook defamation damages trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Waterbury, Conn. Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media

Alex Jones went on trial in Waterbury on Sept. 13 where a jury of six is deciding how much he has to pay an FBI agent and eight Sandy Hook families he defamed when he called the massacre of 26 first-graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax,” and “completely fake with actors.” This is the second trial in as many months where a jury takes up the task of awarding defamation damages. In August, a Texas jury awarded $49 million to the parents of a slain Sandy Hook boy who Jones defamed.

Here are 5 things to know about the Connecticut trial

1. This trial caps a four-year battle

The Connecticut case has been in the national news since an FBI agent and eight Sandy Hook families filed a defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones in 2018, from social media companies such as Facebook and YouTube dropping Jones’ channels for spreading misinformation and hate speech to repeated warnings from state Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis for Jones to comply with pretrial procedures, such as sharing business documents with the families. Bellis first punished Jones by taking away his right to argue what he considered a key line of defense and then defaulted Jones for crossing the line one time too many. Jones’ appeals to the higher courts failed. Even after Jones was found liable for default, his trouble with the court continued, including Jones failing to appear for court-ordered depositions in March. Jones wound up flying to New Haven to give his sworn testimony after Bellis slapped him with an escalating fine starting at $25,000 per day.

2. New Haven defense attorney Norm Pattis in the spotlight

Norm Pattis, who has been called “Connecticut’s most colorful and controversial lawyer,” has made headlines of his own while defending Alex Jones in the Connecticut lawsuit. Most recently, Pattis was the subject of a disciplinary hearing to determine whether he did anything improper by sharing with other lawyers the confidential medical records of Sandy Hook families. Pattis also made news by sharing that he had lost Jones’ confidence and needed the assistance of Jones’ Texas lawyer in the Connecticut case. When Bellis granted the Texas lawyer only limited privileges to defend Jones in Connecticut, Pattis withdrew his request. The result is Pattis ran run Jones’ defense, starting with opening statements in Waterbury Superior Court on Sept. 13 to closing arguments on Oct. 6 when he said he was proud to represent his client.

3. Jones’ innocence was not be argued at trial

Alex Jones was not able to argue his innocence during the trial, since he had already been defaulted and found liable for defamation, after calling the slaying of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax,” and “completely fake with actors.” As such, the Connecticut trial followed a similar route as the Texas case in early August, where a jury awarded the parents of a slain Sandy Hook boy $49 million in damages. In Connecticut, the attorneys for an FBI agent and eight families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook massacre argued that Jones profited from the families’ pain by claiming that the worst crime in Connecticut history was a hoax. The families’ attorneys argued they are entitled to substantial compensation and punitive damages for attorney fees and court costs.

4. Alex Jones’ company's bankruptcy was not debated 

In fact, little was debated in the trial since Jones did not mount a defense. He refused to come back and testify on his own behalf after a pointed exchange on the stand with an attorney for the families and his attorney presented no witnesses or evidence. It was expected that Jones’ defense would make the case that he has been drained by four years of litigation and has been driven into bankruptcy twice this year as a result. Jones’ first bankruptcy was circumvented by the families who simply dropped from their lawsuit the shell companies Jones filed to protect under Chapter 11 laws. The second bankruptcy has had mixed results for Jones. Jones put the parent company of his Infowars broadcast and merchandising business into bankruptcy in early August, stalling the start of a second Texas defamation awards trial. But the bankruptcy of the parent company Free Speech Systems has not stopped the start of the Connecticut trial. The only bankruptcy Jones hasn’t filed is for himself. Attorneys for the families argued that Jones made plenty of money by bringing up the shooting repeatedly which increased engagements with the public who in turn bought more merchandise on his website. An expert called by the parents in the Texas trial testified that Jones was worth between $135 million and $270 million, for example.

5. What is Alex Jones’ mindset?

Jones appeared irritated and angry during press conferences outside the Waterbury courthouse, claiming the trial was "rigged" and that the judge was a "tyrant." He flew to Connecticut twice during the four-week trial, but was in the courthouse very little compared to the Texas trial, where he came and went as he pleased, with his security team in tow. His testimony, however, was not without explosive moments. After the families' attorney accused him of putting a "target" on the back of one father, Jones decried the comments as "ambulance chasing." The tension from the exchange caused Jones not to testify the next day, and he never returned to the stand. 

Lisa Backus contributed to this report.