The latest development in one of the three pending defamation cases brought by families of Sandy Hook shooting victims against Alex Jones is an accusation against Jones (and his associate company, Infowars LLC) of intentional destruction of evidence relevant to the case after written notice of the preservation obligations.
The suit by the Sandy Hook families against Mr. Jones alleges defamation and other causes of action related to claims that the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first graders and six adults was a government-backed hoax and that the families of the deceased were crisis actors. Earlier this month, CNN published an investigation into Mr. Jones’ potentially offensive postings on certain social media platforms, and included likes to content about the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings. However, the links soon thereafter disappeared. The motion for sanctions cites Jones’ own public statements as evidence of both the deletion and its intention: “Mr. Jones appeared on his news show, and he admitted that he instructed his staff to delete the materials. Mr. Jones stated that ‘CNN . . . was doing reports on things I said out of context about David Hogg, about Parkland, and about other events, and I just said ‘Delete that stuff.’” A few moments later in the video, Mr. Jones repeated his admission that he instructed his staff to “delete it.”
The plaintiffs argue that Mr. Jones was under a duty to preserve these postings because they fell within the umbrella of “documents and communications . . . relating to the Sandy Hook shooting.” The motion calls for both punitive and remedial sanctions (via an adverse inference) as a remedy. Although the question of whether Mr. Jones violated his duty to preserve may be relatively straightforward, the request for sanctions will depend on the judge’s determination about the recoverability of the postings by other means, and whether there was a specific intent to deprive the plaintiffs of this evidence.
The motion can be found here.
Akin Gump previously represented Chobani in a defamation suit against Jones that was resolved in May 2017, resulting in a full retraction and public apology. More information may be found here.