Alex Jones is a right-wing conspiracy theorist. His parent company, Free Speech Systems, owns his website, Infowars.com. Jones made allegedly defamatory statements about victims and their families from the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Neil Heslin lost his 6 year-old son in the shooting and sued Jones and his company for defamatory statements. Although this is a Texas case, defamation has five specific elements that must be proven in Florida: (1) publication; (2) falsity; (3) actor must act with knowledge or reckless disregard as to the falsity on a matter concerning a public official, or at least negligently on a matter concerning a private person; (4) actual damages; and (5) statement must be defamatory. Jews for Jesus, Inc. v. Rapp, 997 So. 2d 1098, 1106 (Fla. 2008).
Heslin has sued because Jones has suggested that the Sandy Hook massacre was a “giant hoax” carried out by crisis actors on behalf of those who oppose the Second Amendment, the amendment in the Bill of Rights that provides American citizens the right to bear arms. Jones has attempted to suggest that news coverage of the Sandy Hook massacre was staged.
The Texas court has not ruled on whether the statements were defamatory, but has denied Jones’ Motion to Dismiss and has sanctioned Jones and his company more than $65,000 in the process. The judge ruled that Jones disobeyed a court order to provide a witness list and documents requested by Heslin’s attorneys. Simply put, it appears that Jones has decided to ignore this case once the court denied his motion to dismiss. His lead counsel is blaming a large chunk of the fees on ineffective local counsel in Texas.
This emphasizes the importance of hiring competent counsel and investigating the reputation and effectiveness of the lawyer who you hire.