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  • While in court facing sanctions for similar claims, Alex Jones continued to suggest Sandy Hook families' attorneys planted child pornography on his servers

    After he was sanctioned, Jones attacked the judge in the case as "ignorant" and said she's part of a conspiracy against him

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Alex Jones continued to suggest on-air that attorneys representing some Sandy Hook families in a defamation lawsuit against him had planted child pornography on his servers while Jones’ attorneys were in court at a hearing to determine whether Jones would face sanctions for making similar accusations last week. The hearing concluded with the court sanctioning Jones, and he immediately attacked the judge who issued the ruling and suggested she is part of a conspiracy to ruin him.

    Jones is facing several defamation lawsuits brought by family members of some of the children killed at the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting because of his repeated claims that the shooting was a hoax. One of those lawsuits is currently in the discovery phase in Connecticut state court in which the defendant, Jones, is required to turn over material that could be relevant to the plaintiffs’ case. A batch of emails from Jones’ outlet Infowars that was sent to the plaintiffs was found to contain child pornography. The plaintiffs’ attorneys turned the emails over to the FBI.

    Jones exploded over the revelation during his June 14 broadcast joined by one of the attorneys representing him in the lawsuit, Norm Pattis. During the broadcast, Jones repeatedly suggested that the plaintiffs’ attorneys had planted the emails in the discovery material to frame him for a crime, and at one point he punched a photograph of one of the plaintiffs' attorneys.

    The plaintiffs’ attorneys asked Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who is overseeing the lawsuit, to review Jones’ June 14 comments, and a June 18 hearing was scheduled to determine whether Jones would face sanctions for his behavior.

    While the hearing was underway on June 18, Jones was on-air, making similar claims to what he was ultimately sanctioned over at the hearing’s conclusion. During the broadcast, Jones said, “I’m not saying [the plaintiffs’ attorneys] planted the email. I’m saying somebody planted it. We’re going to find out who they are.” But seconds later, he described the plaintiffs’ attorneys as the “suspect”:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): We get sent needle in the haystack -- invisible needle in a haystack. Imagine if you owned a bookstore and had 20,000 books in it, and you ordered a couple of books and one of them had a postcard of child porn slipped in it. And a week after the book arrives, the police come in and say, “We got told there’s a postcard in this exact book over here,” and they go and open it. You would say to the police, “Who told you that was there? That’s your suspect.” This is 101 deduction, my dear Watson.

    Later in the episode, Jones complained about news coverage of the incident, saying, “Oh, does it tell you that we never opened it and that the lawyers specifically asked for it and then had to scan it to find the secret links?” Jones then claimed that prior to the incident he told Pattis, “Norm, [the plaintiffs’ attorneys] already know there’s something in there that we don’t know about. This is parallel construction. I said you watch.” He made a similar claim later in his show, saying, “And then, people magically -- you know, folks that can find invisible needles in haystacks, they sue you and ask for those emails that you’ve never read.”

    Jones was still on-air when the hearing to sanction him concluded. He reacted by attacking the judge in the case and claiming that the lawsuit is actually a conspiracy by liberals to take him down.

    Jones said that he was receiving texts from Pattis and then quoted a headline about the unfavorable outcome of the hearing, saying, “‘Judge says apology from Alex Jones’ lawyer in Sandy Hook case falls short.’ I’m not apologizing for any of this stuff. I’m done.” Moments later, he added that he would be “pissed” if one of his lawyers did apologize.

    According to legal outlet Law & Crime, “Norm Pattis, an attorney for Jones, apologized on Tuesday for a segment last Friday on Jones’s InfoWars show in which Jones transparently lashed out and identified an opposing attorney by name and face.”

    Jones was also unhappy with Judge Bellis. He complained, “These judges take whatever [mainstream media] says as if God did it.” He later said, “The Connecticut Post, they’re the ones that put out the big disinformation statements that then the rest of the media picks up and then the judge, whether she’s ignorant or whatever, goes with it as if it came out of the mouth of God.” Jones also added, “This judge believes whatever Koskoff and Koskoff says, this Democratic law firm, like they are God.” (Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder is the firm of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.)

    Jones also called the lawsuit against him an overarching conspiracy to take him down. After saying that his explanations about his past comments are irrelevant, Jones said, “It won’t matter because all the blue bloods up in Connecticut, they are going to show that loudmouth, dumb Texan that they’ll put me under the jail because old Hillary didn’t get elected.”

    Jones says he is appealing the sanctions issued against him.

  • Roger Stone downplays his legal problems as “process crime charges,” even though a judge’s gag order says he can’t discuss his case

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Trump confidant Roger Stone attempted to downplay the seriousness of criminal charges brought against him by referring to them as “process crime charges” during an interview with a conservative news outlet, echoing a talking point used by supporters of the president to attack special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Stone is subject to a gag order that prohibits him from talking about his case or the Mueller probe except to declare his innocence or raise money for his legal defense.

    Stone was arrested on January 25 and charged with seven felonies as part of Mueller’s investigation -- including five counts of making false statements to Congress and one count each of obstruction of a proceeding and witness tampering. On February 21, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing his case, imposed a near-total gag order on Stone after he posted an image on his Instagram account of her “next to an apparent rifle scope's crosshair.”

    According to the terms of the gag order, Stone is prohibited from commenting to “the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel's investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” After questions were raised about whether it would violate the gag order to publish a book Stone said he wrote prior to being charged, Jackson emphasized in a March 5 court filing that “there is no question that the order prohibited and continues to prohibit the defendant from making any public statements, using any medium, concerning the investigation.” She also added, “The fact that the order exists at all is entirely the fault of the defendant; the Court did not impose any restrictions on his speech whatsoever until, as he put it, he ‘abused the latitude’ the Court gave him.”

    Still, Stone commented on his case during an interview with right-wing outlet One America News Network that was posted on YouTube on April 4. Stone said he wouldn’t voluntarily cooperate with a House Judiciary Committee investigation that requested documents from him because “unlike Jussie Smollett, I am still facing seven criminal federal process crime charges.”

    Stone’s reference to “process crime charges” echoes a talking point he deployed after he was arrested, but before he was subjected to a gag order. During a January 25 appearance on CNN, the same day he was arrested, Stone emphasized that he had been charged with a “process crime” while claiming that “there's still no evidence whatsoever that I had advance knowledge of the topic, the subject, or the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures.”

    Other supporters of Stone and the president adopted the same talking point throughout Mueller’s investigation. Following Stone’s indictment, attorney Alan Dershowitz -- a frequent defender of Trump on cable news -- wrote an opinion piece at The Hill about the “process crimes” Stone was charged with. While calling those charges “serious,” Dershowitz sought to contrast them with the possibility of “substantive crimes relating to Russia” and wrote that Stone’s indictment “follows a long pattern that should raise serious concerns about the special counsel.” On Trump’s favorite cable news show, Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Dan Bongino also reacted to Stone’s arrest by downplaying the indictment as “another process crime.”

    So-called “process crimes” are a serious matters, as indicated by the fact that the crimes Stone is being charged with are all felonies. As an academic legal paper published in 2008 explained, these crimes, “if ignored, threaten to undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.” As the article noted, the term “process crime” was invented by people critical of the authorities prosecuting crimes that arise out of an investigation:

    The United States Department of Justice has come under attack in recent years because of its increased attention to, and prosecution of, crimes committed during the course of its investigations -- obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements. These crimes have been labeled "cover-up” or "process crimes," and the charging prosecutors have been criticized as bringing such charges only against high-profile defendants as to whom there is insufficient evidence to charge the "more serious" underlying offenses that prompted the initial investigation. Some critics have gone so far as to label these prosecutions "vindictive."

    Much of this criticism is misplaced. These are serious -- not minor -- crimes, wholly deserving of prosecutorial attention and which, if ignored, threaten to undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system. In our adversarial system of justice, individuals have near-absolute rights to refuse to testify or to refuse to speak to investigators. Ignoring perjury and obstructive conduct poses a risk of diminishing the significance of these important rights.

    In an opinion piece for The Washington Post following Stone’s arrest, former federal prosecutor Randall D. Eliason also pushed back on the fact that “Trump’s supporters have been quick to dismiss such charges as mere ‘process crimes,’” writing, “As a former federal prosecutor, I can tell you prosecutors don’t use the term ‘process crimes.’ They just call them ‘crimes’ and take them very seriously, because these crimes threaten the very foundations of the justice system.”

  • Instagram is helping promote Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories about the death of a Sandy Hook father

    The father, Jeremy Richman, was suing Jones for defamation over Jones' false Sandy Hook claims 

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    An Instagram account associated with Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet is using the platform to promote Jones’ conspiracy theories about the death of Jeremy Richman, whose daughter Avielle was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

    Richman died of an apparent suicide on March 25. He was part of a group of Sandy Hook families who are suing Jones for defamation, arguing that false claims Jones made about the 2012 shooting -- including that the tragedy was a “giant hoax” -- spurred harassment and threats against them.

    Instagram account @thenewswars, a reference to Infowars website News Wars, is followed by the outlet’s primary Instagram account and exclusively posts Infowars content. On March 25, the account posted a video about Jones’ comments on Richman.
     

    The video was posted with the description “MSM Uses Tragic Suicide Of Sandy Hook Dad To Smear Alex Jones.” The post included the hashtag #SandyHook and urged people to read a linked Infowars article to view the full video. In that full video, Jones complained that Richman’s reported suicide meant that Jones won’t get a “fair trial” in the defamation lawsuits he is facing. He also questioned the known facts of Richman’s death, saying, “I mean, is there going to be a police investigation? Are they going to look at the surveillance cameras? I mean, what happened to this guy? This whole Sandy Hook thing is, like, really getting even crazier.” He also speculated that Richman was murdered and that his death was timed to distract from the release of the summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    As Media Matters’ Natalie Martinez reported, Jones’ primary Instagram account, @real_alexjones, routinely posts content that includes hate speech and conspiracy theories and features appearances from other extremist figures banned by the platform. While Facebook, Instagram's parent company, banned Jones and his outlet, he is increasingly making the social media giant's subsidiary his home. 

    Natalie Martinez contributed research to this report.

  • Alex Jones is pushing conspiracy theories about the death of a Sandy Hook father who was suing him

    Jones: “I mean, what happened to this guy? This whole Sandy Hook thing is, like, really getting even crazier.”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Update (3/26/19): This piece has been updated with additional information.

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones made a series of conspiratorial comments following the death of Jeremy Richman, whose daughter Avielle was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT. Jones questioned whether Richman really died by suicide, as is reported, and suggested that the death was timed to distract from “good news” that had come out about Jones.

    Richman was found dead at his office building in Newtown the morning of March 25 in what police say is an apparent suicide. He was part of a group of Sandy Hook families who are suing Jones for defamation, arguing that false claims Jones made about the 2012 shooting spurred harassment and threats against them.

    Following the mass shooting, Jones definitively and repeatedly said that the violence at Sandy Hook, which left 20 students and six educators dead, didn’t happen. After his public profile was raised, and particularly after a December 2015 appearance by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump on his show, Jones has sought to backtrack and spin his past comments in some cases while advancing new Sandy Hook conspiracy theories in others.

    Jones commented on Richman’s death during his March 25 broadcast, repeatedly suggesting that Richman did not die by suicide. He also claimed that the timing of Richman’s death was suspicious and meant to distract from the release of the summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Complaining that Richman’s reported suicide means he won’t get a “fair trial” in the defamation lawsuits he is facing, Jones questioned the known facts of Richman’s death saying, “I mean, is there going to be a police investigation? Are they going to look at the surveillance cameras? I mean, what happened to this guy? This whole Sandy Hook thing is, like, really getting even crazier.”

    ALEX JONES (HOST): I mean, how do I get a fair trial with stuff like this? I’ve never said this guy’s name. Never said his name, until now. And obviously first it’s "we don’t know, he’s got gunshot wounds or whatever." Now it’s, well, apparent suicide.I mean, is there going to be a police investigation? Are they going to look at the surveillance cameras? I mean, what happened to this guy? This whole Sandy Hook thing is, like, really getting even crazier.

    Moments later, Jones raised the possibility that Richman was murdered, before saying, “Look, the good news of no collusion, the good news that I’m not a Russian agent comes out, and now this happens right on time. Just amazing.” Jones’ broadcast displayed an image of Richman’s deceased daughter while he made the claim:

    JONES: We have no idea whether he was even murdered at this point. Why would some anti-gun guy do this? This is really sad. My prayers go out to him and his family and we wish for the truth of whatever really happened here to come out. We don’t know yet. And we’ll see the corporate media say outrageous lies, but it’s what they do. And look, the good news of no collusion, the good news that I’m not a Russian agent comes out, and now this happens right on time. Just amazing.

    Jones also used his discussion of Richman to dispute that there is any connection between what he has said about the Sandy Hook shooting and the harassment experienced by Richman’s family. Jones said, “I have never said Jeremy Richman’s name. In fact, most of the people in these suits, I never even said their names, and there are like 80-page lawsuits and I read it and most of the stuff I have never even said.” He also claimed that he has talked to cable TV pundit and lawyer Alan Dershowitz about the lawsuits. (When reached by email, Dershowitz declined to comment on whether Jones’ claim was true, writing, “I can’t comment on any statement regarding possible requests for legal services.”)

    As The New York Times’ Elizabeth Williamson noted in a thread on Twitter, there is a clear connection between Jones and Richman via Infowars’ promotion of Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Wolfgang Halbig who made multiple appearances as a guest on Infowars.

    Williamson is correct. According to a Media Matters archived copy of a deleted Infowars video, an Infowars camera crew did travel to Connecticut in 2015 with Halbig in order to advance the conspiracy theory that the shooting was a hoax. In the video, Halbig and others are shown disrupting a meeting of the state’s Freedom of Information Commission, from which he had requested documentation related to the Sandy Hook shooting. Halbing is also interviewed by a correspondent with an Infowars microphone in the video.  

    If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.