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)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)
Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human
The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.
Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.
The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.
With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.
According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney.
The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.
Concerns and Hurdles Ahead
While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles.
Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this.
Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.
“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.
“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”