Attorneys for Sandy Hook plaintiffs filed several hundred pages of court documents on Tuesday in order to push back against recent efforts by Infowars host Alex Jones‘ to escape the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages he was ordered by jurors and a judge to pay for years of promoting false and defamatory conspiracy theories.
In two separate filings in the same Connecticut court, spread across 815 pages, the individuals who recently won – and then won bigger – are trying to protect their winnings from remittitur arguments as well as a motion for a new trial.
In a bid to obtain a new jury trial, Jones cited a section of the Connecticut Constitution which reads that in “all prosecutions or indictments for libels, the truth may be given in evidence, and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts, under the direction of the court.”
A judge entered a default judgment against Jones on the underlying allegations in the defamation lawsuit brought by eight families of people killed in the 2012 school massacre and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting – due to Jones’ repeat violations of his obligations under the law to provide the plaintiffs with relevant discovery. Later, jurors assessed damages nearly totaling $1 billion.
The conspiracy theorist’s legal argument is that language in the Nutmeg State’s founding charter mandates jurors decide the outcome of defamation cases – not just weigh in on the question of damages.
In response, the plaintiffs argue that the language in question only applies to criminal trials – not civil ones.
“The Connecticut Constitution confers no right to engage in egregious disobedience to Court orders and then vacate necessary resulting sanctions in any case, and it certainly confers no such right in this civil case,” one of the filings says. “Article First, section six, on which the defendants rely, applies only to criminal libel prosecutions, and not at all in this civil case.”
The filing goes on to argue that Jones “willfully obstructed discovery for years” and therefore “cannot complain about being defaulted now.”
Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that Jones’ and his attorneys’ own decisions during trial can’t form the basis for relief now.
“[T]hey chose not to cross-examine the plaintiffs on many issues, or, in some cases, at all,” the filing goes on. “And they chose not to call Alex Jones to the stand – twice. These were tactical decisions by the defendants and do not even possibly constitute judicial error, nor do any of their other arguments provide any basis for relief to the defendants.”
In the motion to deny Jones’ attempt to reduce the damages, the plaintiffs argue the conspiracy theorist simply did not try very hard in his previous court filings and that the “jury’s just verdict recognizes the profound harms suffered by fifteen people over ten years.”
From the second filing, at length:
At trial, the plaintiffs proved ten years of Sandy Hook lies broadcast on Infowars.com, PrisonPlanetTV.com, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and syndicated to over 150 AM/FM radio affiliates; and 550,000,000 impressions of Sandy Hook lies on social media alone. Fifteen plaintiffs testified about experiencing death threats, rape threats, constant attacks through all forms of social media, memorials defiled, graveyards invaded, homes invaded, anger, powerlessness, disconnection, inability to grieve, and constant fear. Even before future damages are considered, the plaintiffs suffered one hundred and fifty years of torment. The evidence of the plaintiffs’ past reputational harm and emotional suffering alone warrants the jury’s assessment of $965 million in compensatory damages.
A remittitur motion may be granted “only in the most exceptional of circumstances.” The defendants’ remittitur motion cites nothing—no transcript, no exhibits, no case law—to even begin to carry their burden of showing manifest injustice. Every indication, from the overwhelming evidence of catastrophic harm to the attentiveness of the jury, supports the conclusion that the jury discharged its obligations carefully, dutifully, and according to the Court’s instructions. The defense arguments that the verdict should have been bolstered by additional evidence fail to acknowledge the weight of the evidence that was presented and lack any legal support. There is absolutely no basis for their claim that the trial offended their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The motion for remittitur must be denied.
Substantially similar in some, but not most, parts, each of the two filings incorporates one another by reference in order to bolster the legal arguments advanced by the plaintiffs in response to both of Jones’ efforts to avoid the blockbuster judgments against him.
Jones, by way of his attorneys, also attacked the closing arguments used by the plaintiffs as an improper effort to influence the jury. But, again, the plaintiffs note, Jones did not object to those arguments during trial.
“The defendants’ repeated claim that this trial was a ‘memorial service’ is both deeply offensive and typical of the defendants’ decision to ignore the real people whom they harmed,” the first filing says in conclusion. “Memorial services for the beloved departed would never happen in a courtroom. They would never involve discussion of Alex Jones. This was not, by any means, a ‘memorial,’ and the plaintiffs should not have to respond to such an argument.”
[Image via Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images]
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