NEWTOWN - Neil Heslin doesn’t know if extremist Alex Jones was thinking more about his social media troubles than his civil court troubles when Jones deleted scores of Twitter posts about his conspiracy theories.
Heslin, who lost a 6-year-old son in the Sandy Hook massacre, says all he knows is Jones was warned to preserve the records of hoax claims Jones has made about the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting as part of Heslin’s $1 million defamation suit against the Texas-based Infowars operator.
“It’s anybody’s guess what his reasoning was, but he was ordered not to touch any evidence,” said Heslin, who has accused Jones in court papers of intentionally destroying evidence. “We were trying to marshal this evidence in my case against him, so it’s significant that he destroyed it.”
Jones’ Dallas-based attorney, Mark Enoch, did not respond to requests for comment on Monday. The attorney has 30 days to answer the motion for court sanctions against Jones.
The motion by Heslin and two other parents of a boy slain in the Sandy Hook massacre - Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa - follows an admission by Jones earlier this month on his program that he ordered his staff to “delete that stuff,” according to the court filing.
Jones, who has called the massacre of 26 first-graders and educators at Sandy Hook School “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax,” and “completely fake with actors” with “inside job written all over it,” says in his defense that he no longer believes all that, and that he has a right to be wrong.
Jones has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuits brought by Heslin and by Pozner and De La Rosa. The judge will hear arguments on the motion to throw out Heslin’s case on Aug. 30.
Jones has seen his troubles multiply since the defamation lawsuits were filed. Facebook, YouTube, Apple and other social media companies have enforced suspensions and other restrictions against Jones and InfoWars, for inciting violence and promoting hate speech.
Jones has been a problem in Newtown for years, particularly since the election of President Donald Trump, who once appeared on Jones’ show and praised him.
Shortly after Trump’s election, for example, the Newtown Board of Education sent a letter to the White House asking the president to condemn Jones and the lies Jones spreads. The White House did not respond.
Last summer, when Jones taped an interview with Megyn Kelly, Sandy Hook Promise lobbied NBC executives to cancel the show, arguing that a primetime feature would give Jones’ legitimacy he did not deserve. The interview aired as scheduled.
Today, Jones appears to be under so much pressure from all sides that even when he removes offensive social media posts, he gets in trouble.
Heslin’s motion argues that “the most severe sanctions” are needed because Jones deleted videos and tweets “with the purpose of concealing relevant evidence.”
Heslin’s motion cites case law where one attorney was fined $540,000 for telling his client to delete photographs from a social media page, and another attorney was suspended for five years for telling his client to “clean up” his Facebook page.
On Monday, a legal observer doubted the judge would impose severe sanctions in Jones’ case.
“I would guess in this case the sanction will be paying fees,” said John Thomas, a professor of law at Quinnipiac University. “The variable is going to be how much evidence was destroyed and whether the evidence was relevant.”