Extremist Alex Jones has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that his “blood on the streets” rant against an attorney representing families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook shooting was protected free speech.
Norm Pattis, the high-profile New Haven attorney, calls the sanction Jones received in trial court after his 2019 rant an “unprecedented attack on freedom of speech” and a “direct, frontal assault on the First Amendment itself” because what Jones said did not constitute a legal threat.
“(Jones’) views on the judicial process and the conduct of its various participants are core political speech protected by the First Amendment regardless of whether he expresses them with Shakespearean eloquence or with quintessential American vim and vigor,” Pattis wrote in the appeal. “Courts are not above the Constitution. They can transgress on constitutional liberties just as readily as the legislative or executive branches, particularly when they regulate the speech of those subject to their jurisdiction.”
Jones’ appeal to the highest court in the country aims to overturn a decision by state Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis to deny Jones what he considers a key line of defense in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by an FBI agent and six families who lost loved ones in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.
Bellis’ sanction, which was upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court in July, came after the Texas-based businessman went on his Infowars broadcast with Pattis and claimed someone had embedded child pornography in Jones’ emails that were turned over to Sandy Hook families as part of the pretrial discovery process.
Transcripts from Jones’ June 14, 2019, Infowars broadcast quote Jones singling out Chris Mattei, one of the families’ attorneys at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, and saying, among other things, “[I]f they want war — you know, it’s not a threat. It’s like an AC/DC song. If you want blood, you’ve got it. Blood on the streets, man.”
Pattis argues in Jones’ appeal that his call-to-arms was “overwhelmingly hyperbolic” and “the only threat, if any, that Mr. Jones levied at opposing counsel was that of legal action.”
By Wednesday, the families had not filed a response to Jones’ appeal. Mattei expressed confidence in the lower courts’ rulings.
“Court after court has concluded that Jones has engaged in a ‘whole picture of bad faith litigation’ against the Sandy Hook plaintiffs,” Mattei told Hearst Connecticut Media on Wednesday. “We expect the United States Supreme Court to see it the same way and deny the petition.”
Jones’ appeal is the latest development in a handful of defamation lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas filed by families who lost loved ones in 2012, when a gunman shot his way into a locked Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 first-graders and educators.
Jones, who called the worst crime in Connecticut history “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax,” and “completely fake with actors” has said in court that he no longer denies that the shooting happened.
Jones was last in the headlines in January after the highest court in Texas rejected appeals by Jones to dismiss lawsuits brought by two fathers of children killed in the school shooting.
Jones’ appeal marks the second time in as many years that an appeal involving Sandy Hook families has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
In late 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the former gunmaker Remington to throw out a wrongful death lawsuit brought by 10 Sandy Hook families. Less than a year later, Remington was sold off in bankruptcy court.
It was too soon on Wednesday to say whether the U.S. Supreme Court would take up Jones’ appeal.
“[I]f this Court does not intervene,” Pattis wrote, “it will permit litigants to silence the unpopular speakers’ constitutionally protected speech just because those speakers have been sued.”