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.
Our Orland Park, IL libel and slander lawyers concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases, including cases representing a consumer sued by a large luxury used car dealer in federal court for hundreds of negative internet reviews and videos which resulted in substantial media coverage of the suit; one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired; and a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law, where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois. One of our partners also participated in representing a high profile athlete against a well-known radio shock jock.
Our Chicago defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. Our Chicago Cybersquatting attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicago area including in Burr Ridge and Hinsdale who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and offline media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating sites and pretend consumer rating sites that are simply forums to falsely bash or business clients. We have also represented and defended consumers First Amendment and free speech rights to criticize businesses who are guilty of consumer fraud and false advertising.
Super Lawyers named Chicago and Oak Brook business trial attorney Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation and Chicago slander attorney Patrick Austermuehle a Rising Star. Lubin Austermuehle’s Oak Brook and Chicago business trial lawyers have over thirty years of experience in litigating complex class action, consumer rights and business and commercial litigation disputes. We handle emergency business lawsuits involving injunctions, and TROS, defamation, libel, and covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud or defamatory attacks on their business and reputations.
Lubin Austermuehle’s DuPage County defamation and slander lawyers near Glen Ellyn and Willowbrook have more than three decades of experience helping business clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state business laws. Our Chicago business and commercial litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Oak Brook, near Lisle and Wheeling, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest. For a free consultation, you can contact us locally at 630-333-0333 or online.