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Plaintiffs Continue To Dig At Motive Behind Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory

Families of Sandy Hook victims for lawsuit story
Jessica Hill
/
AP
In this Dec. 14, 2012, file photo, Alissa Parker grieves with her husband, Robbie, as they leave a staging area after receiving word that their daughter, Emilie, was one of the 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Conn. Robbie Parker spent years trying to ignore the people who took to the internet to call him a crisis actor or claim his daughter never existed. He has since changed course, joining the families of other victims in taking legal action against deniers.

A judge presiding over the case involving a Sandy Hook conspiracy theory will for now keep key information about defendant Alex Jones’ finances under seal.

Jones, the controversial host of InfoWars, was sued in state court three years ago by families of loved ones killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. They say he promoted a conspiracy theory that children killed in the shooting were actually alive and that the shooting was staged. The families also say they continue to be harmed by Jones and his followers.

An issue that came up during Wednesday’s pretrial conference may shed light on something the plaintiffs want to know more about: Jones’ motivation for saying the Sandy Hook shooting didn’t happen. The judge took up a motion to unseal a deposition of Jones’ accountant, Melinda Flores, that touched on advertising income figures for Jones’ media company.

Jones’ attorney Jay Marshall Wolman doesn’t want them released.

“While we recognize that certainly a motion for sanctions constitutes ... a judicial document to which the presumption of public access does apply,” Wolman said, “there is an overriding interest in protecting our client’s confidential financial information.”

According to the defense, Jones knows the shooting happened. But in the past, he called the shooting a “cover-up” and a “total hoax.” When the lawsuit was filed in 2018, the plaintiffs said Jones was falsely claiming “that the Sandy Hook shooting was a government-sponsored hoax designed to lead to gun control” and alleged it was a ploy to rile up his followers.

“Jones and his subordinates say what they say not because they are eager to educate or even to entertain their audience,” read the 2018 complaint filed on behalf of the families. “Rather, they deliberately stoke social anxiety and political discord in their listeners because distrust in government and cultural tribalism motivate those listeners to buy those products.”

The drive to unseal details surrounding ad revenues has to do with an effort by the plaintiffs to show that Jones had financial incentive to broadcast certain content. In 2019, they deposed employees of Free Speech Systems, the parent company of InfoWars. Chris Mattei, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, spoke with Dr. David Jones, Alex Jones’ father, to learn more about Free Speech Systems’ collection of data related to marketing, sales and activities. Mattei asked the father whether the company had data regarding spikes in sales during broadcasts.

“Only in the sense that if there have been days where we had extraordinarily good sales, someone will say, ‘What was Alex saying when that happened?’ and so we like to emulate spikes,” David Jones said in 2019.

Wolman said the figures at issue on Wednesday were revealed as part of testimony the defendants produced for the court because they thought it would be confidential.

While much of the deposition will be included in court filings, Judge Barbara Bellis agreed with Wolman that specific sections can be redacted for now to protect his client.

“I do think that at this point for filings with the court that it is financial information that the public’s interest is overrided by a right of privacy,” Bellis said.

But according to Bellis, anything that’s redacted could be unsealed at trial, which is slated to begin next June.

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