Infowars Loses Appeal in Sandy Hook Defamation Lawsuit

Infowars host Alex Jones speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2018. (Photo by Jared Holt for Right Wing Watch)

Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist proprietor of Infowars, and his attorneys were denied an appeal regarding a lawsuit that alleges Infowars broadcast defamatory comments regarding the father of a child murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The Texas Court of Appeals has ordered Infowars to “pay all costs” related to the botched appeal.

Infowars filed its now-dismissed appeal one day after Sandy Hook parent Neil Heslin filed a motion for contempt against Infowars as part of an ongoing legal battle against the outlet, which in 2017 broadcast claims that Heslin argued were meant to insinuate that he lied about holding his murdered son’s body and to subject him to harassment and emotional damage by those who believe Sandy Hook was a “false flag” conspiracy—a conspiracy theory advanced by the host of an Infowars program and amplified by Jones himself.

Heslin had filed a motion for expedited discovery and a motion for sanctions against defendants Jones, Infowars employee Owen Shroyer, Free Speech Systems LLC, and Infowars LLC, after it was revealed that Jones had ordered Infowars employees to remove “social media pages and video content relating to the Sandy Hook shooting” from the internet. Jones and his lawyers had previously filed a motion to have Heslin’s lawsuit dismissed under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a 2011 Texas law meant to aid individuals facing a frivolous lawsuits, but the judge hearing the case agreed with Heslin’s argument that Infowars’ efforts to delete content relevant to his case had hampered his ability to respond to Infowars’ motion to dismiss.

A judge extended the hearing date on Infowars’ TCPA motion and ordered Infowars to respond to discovery requests. But when the deadline for discovery approached, Infowars made clear it did not intend to cooperate. Heslin filed a motion for contempt of court.

Lawyers for Infowars argued that because defendants had appeared in court regarding their motion to dismiss, they were not required to comply with the discovery process. The Texas Court of Appeals disagreed with Infowars’ interpretation of Texas law and tossed the appeal.

In a ruling rendered August 30, 2019, Jones’ appeal to the Texas Court of Appeals from the District Court of Travis County was dismissed. Jones was ordered to “pay all costs relating to this appeal, both in this Court and in the court below.”

“We agree with Heslin that the district court has not yet ruled on Appellants’ motion to dismiss, nor has the motion been overruled by operation of law. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction,” Justice Gisela Triana wrote in the opinion.

Infowars’ failed appeal wasted nearly a year of time in Heslin’s lawsuit against Infowars. Mark Bankston, an attorney representing Heslin, said the next steps in the case won’t be clear until parties meet with the court.

“Mr. Heslin is very pleased with the decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing InfoWars’ appeal and ordering Mr. Jones to pay costs. After InfoWars wasted everyone’s time on a frivolous appeal, we can now return to the trial court where we intend to hold Mr. Jones fully accountable for his disgusting defamation of Mr. Heslin,” Bankston told Right Wing Watch.

The dismissal of Infowars’ appeal last week is yet another blow to the conspiracy theory outlet, which has found itself facing multiple lawsuits related to its coverage of the Sandy Hook shooting.