By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business
Updated: Fri, 23 Sep 2022 01:52:39 GMT
Source: CNN Business
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones tangled Thursday in an explosive courtroom exchange with an attorney for families of Sandy Hook victims who have sued him in Connecticut, prompting an admonishment from the judge and warning that they could be held in contempt if they violate court rules moving forward.
The warning from a frustrated Judge Barbara Bellis came during the trial that will determine how much Jones must pay the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims for his lies about the massacre.
Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the families, questioned the far-right media personality about his false claim that the 2012 shooting in which 26 people were killed was a "hoax," prompting Jones to grow angry and attack him.
Jones accused Mattei of being disingenuous and said he was guilty of "ambulance chasing" before descending into a rant in court about "liberals."
Bellis, who had previously warned Jones that some of his outbursts were a violation of court rules, reminded the Infowars founder that he was in a "court of law" and is required to follow her instructions.
"This is clearly not your show and you have to respect the process," Bellis told Jones. "Whether you like it or not you have to respect the rules."
Bellis also instructed counsel for both parties to behave orderly.
Bellis warned that anyone who violates court rules moving forward will be subject to a contempt hearing, which she stressed she would like to avoid.
The stunning episode capped a day of testimony from Jones who had thus far not made an appearance in the Connecticut defamation trial. The trial is taking place a month after a Texas jury determined that Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent of Infowars, should award two parents nearly $50 million.
Jones baselessly told his audience in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that the incident was staged. He has since acknowledged the shooting occurred, but only after the lawsuits were filed. He said in a 2019 sworn deposition that a "form of psychosis" caused him to make his false comments.
In the Connecticut case, where Jones is being sued by eight more Sandy Hook families, Bellis issued a default judgment against the Infowars founder in November 2021 after he failed to comply with court orders.
In court Thursday, Jones, who has sought to portray himself as a victim of an elaborate "deep state" conspiracy against him, was confronted during his testimony with some of his past unhinged rhetoric assailing the judicial system.
Mattei compelled Jones through questioning to acknowledge to the jury that he had referred to the proceedings as those of a "kangaroo court" and called the judge a "tyrant."
Mattei brought up how Jones has been bothered when false statements have been made against him, noting that the Infowars founder took legal action in the past when he felt he was defamed.
The attorney argued to the jury that the lies Jones told about the families of Sandy Hook victims were far more damaging than the commentary that had bothered Jones and prompted his legal action.
Mattei, who has argued during the trial that Jones pushed the Sandy Hook lie because it was profitable, also questioned Jones about whether he was using the trial as a marketing stunt to sell products to his loyal fan base.
Because the judge already ruled that Jones is liable, the jury is determining the amount in damages to award the plaintiffs. While the families have not specified a dollar figure, an attorney for the families asked jurors last week to "send a message" to the public with its decision.
Plaintiffs in three Connecticut lawsuits against Jones, including family members of eight school students and employees and one FBI agent who responded to the scene, have all been condensed into the trial that commenced earlier this month.
Norman Pattis, Jones' attorney, has argued that the claims made by the Sandy Hook plaintiffs are "exaggerated." Pattis has also said the Sandy Hook families have "become partisans" and said the defense will argue the harm has been overstated "because they want to silence [Jones] for political reasons."