Alex Jones Found Liable for Damages in Sandy Hook Conspiracy Lawsuits
A judge ruled that Jones “intentionally disobeyed” court orders to provide documents for the lawsuits in an act of “flagrant bad faith and callous disregard.”
Alex Jones Loses Lawsuits
A Texas judge ruled this week that far-right conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones is liable for all damages in two lawsuits brought on by families of Sandy Hook victims, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.
District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued default judgments against Jones and Infowars for repeatedly failing to comply with court orders to provide documents and evidence in the suits.
The rare legal rulings effectively meant that Jones automatically lost in both cases concerning his false claims that the 2012 school shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead, was a “giant hoax” and “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.”
The lawsuits were filed in 2018 by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose son Noah was murdered in the massacre; and Scarlett Lewis, who also lost her son Jesse. Both boys were six years old.
The families said they have faced years of emotional distress, harassment, and death threats from fans of Jones who believed his baseless claims.
In her rulings, first reported by HuffPost, Gamble wrote that Jones and his parent company Free Speech Systems “intentionally disobeyed” court orders to turn over documents.
“The Court finds that Defendants’ failure to comply … is greatly aggravated by [their] consistent pattern of discovery abuse throughout similar cases pending before this Court,” Gamble wrote in one of the rulings. “The Court finds that Defendants’ discovery conduct in this case is the result of flagrant bad faith and callous disregard for the responsibilities of discovery under the rules.”
“An escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties, and non-dispositive sanctions have all been ineffective at deterring the abuse,” she added, in an apparent reference to the numerous losses Jones has stacked up for his falsehoods.
Ongoing Legal Battles and Continued Losses
Jones has already lost multiple legal battles over his Sandy Hook remarks and has been ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to families.
Last year, he was also ordered to pay nearly $150,000 in legal fees in a ruling similar to the decision this week after he failed to provide documents to attorneys representing Sandy Hook families.
A jury is expected to decide how much Jones owes Pozner, De La Rosa, and Lewis.
Mark Bankston, an attorney for the parents filing the two lawsuits, told CNN that the ruling gave the two families “the closure they deserve.”
“Mr. Jones was given ample opportunity to take these lawsuits seriously and obey the rule of law,” he added. “He chose not to do so, and now he will face the consequences for that decision.”
In a joint statement from Jones and Norm Pattis, an attorney for Infowars who did not represent the outlet or host in the suit, the two described the rulings as “stunning.”
“It takes no account of the tens of thousands of documents produced by the defendants, the hours spent sitting for depositions and the various sworn statements filed in these cases,” they said. “We are distressed by what we regard as a blatant abuse of discretion by the trial court. We are determined to see that these cases are heard on the merits.”
Still, Jones’ legal issues are far from over. A total of nine families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook shooting have sued Jones over the years, and several of those cases are ongoing.
In February, The Washington Post also reported that the Justice Department and FBI were investigating whether Jones and other well-known right-wing figures played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. According to the outlet, the probe will specifically look into the influence those figures had on the rioters, and if anyone who did influence the mob “bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges, such as conspiracy or aiding the effort.”
See what others are saying: (HuffPost) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.