Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay $965 million to those affected by his false claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, a Connecticut jury decided Wednesday.
The ruling is the second major ruling against the Infowars host who persistently promoted the lie that the 2012 massacre never happened, and that grieving families were seen in news coverage that was a conspiracy to take away people’s guns. Actors were hired under
It came in a lawsuit filed by the families of five children and three teachers killed in the mass shooting, as well as an FBI agent who was among the first responders at the scene. In August, a Texas jury awarded nearly $50 million to the parents of another slain child.
The Connecticut trial featured tearful testimony from the victims’ parents and siblings, who described how they were threatened and harassed by people who believed the lies on Jones’ show.
Strangers came to their homes to record them. People made nasty comments on social media. Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Don Hochspring, testified that people sent rape threats to her home. Mark Barden has told how conspiracy theorists urinated on his 7-year-old son Daniel’s grave and threatened to dig up his coffin.
Testifying during the trial, Jones admitted that he was wrong about Sandy Hook. “The shooting was real,” he said. But in the courtroom and on his show, he was defiant.
He called the proceedings a “kangaroo court,” mocked the judge, called the plaintiff’s attorney an ambulance chaser and called the case a violation of free speech rights. He claimed it was a conspiracy by Democrats and the media to silence him and put him out of business.
“I’ve already said ‘I’m sorry’ hundreds of times and I’m sorry by saying I’m sorry,” he said during his testimony.
On December 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed in the shooting. The libel trial was held at a courthouse in Waterbury, about 20 miles (32 km) from Newtown, where the attack took place.
The lawsuit accused Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using mass murder to build their audience and make millions of dollars. Experts testified that Jones’ audience grew when he made Sandy Hook a topic on the show, as did the revenue from sales of his products.
In both the Texas case and the Connecticut case, judges found the company liable for default damages when Jones failed to cooperate with court rules on sharing evidence, including failing to turn over records that might have revealed it. Whether Infowars knowingly profited from spreading false information. About mass murder
Because he had already been found guilty, Jones was barred from mentioning free speech rights and other topics during his testimony.
Jones now faces a third trial, later in the year in Texas, in a lawsuit filed by the parents of another child killed in the shooting.
It is unclear how much of the judgment Jones may pay. During the trial in Texas, he testified that he could not afford a judgment of more than $2 million. Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy protection. But an economist testified in the Texas proceeding that Jones and his company are worth $270 million.