In August some major online content distributors, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Apple, started removing Alex Jones’s Infowars content from their platforms for allegedly violating their policies. It made sense for Jones’s staff to delete some of the offensive material in order to get his content back onto those major platforms so he could get back in front of his audience. But because he is also facing a defamation lawsuit, deleting that material could be considered destroying evidence, which is illegal.
Jones and his company, Infowars, have been sued by survivors and family members of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. Jones has said on his broadcast that the entire shooting was a hoax planned and sponsored by the government in order to promote an anti-Second Amendment agenda. Jones has accused survivors and family members of being actors and claimed that the supposed deceased never really existed in the first place.
As if losing a child to senseless violence isn’t bad enough, survivors and family members have had to deal with threats and harassment from Jones’s followers. At least one family has moved to a gated community as a result of the threats they received.
Some of the survivors and family members have responded by suing Jones and his company for defamation. Much of that lawsuit depends upon the content published by Infowars, but since some of that content has since been deleted (and Jones is on record admitting he told his staff to delete the content), Jones may have inadvertently dug his hole deeper.
According to court filings in the District Court of Travis County, Texas, written documents had been supplied to Jones telling him he was obligated by law to preserve all materials relevant to the defamation lawsuit. Despite this warning, Jones had his staff delete relevant materials just as attorneys for the two families were getting ready to assemble that evidence for their defamation case against Jones and his companies. The attorneys say it’s too convenient to be a coincidence.
According to the motion, there’s no way to know at this point exactly how much content was deleted by Jones’s staff, but the attorneys say they know it included both videos and written social media content.
Intentionally destroying evidence involved in an ongoing lawsuit is bad enough on its own – if found guilty, both Jones and his attorney could be subject to thousands of dollars in fines in addition to punitive action. But it could also be seen as supporting the families’ defamation claims against Jones and his company. If that happens and the court does rule in favor of the families, Jones and his company could be ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars to those he allegedly defamed, which could effectively be the end of his company.
While destroying incriminating documents is often a knee-jerk reaction of the guilty who are afraid of being held accountable for their crimes, the law has consequences for such evasive actions. If Jones really did have the documents destroyed with the intention of escaping legal action, he may have shot himself in the proverbial foot, rather than done anything to help his case.
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