In a defamation case, Alex Jones was made to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for spreading the lie that the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 was a hoax. Jones was found guilty by the Connecticut jury of $965 million, with individual damages of up to $120 million.
Last year, Jones and his business were held responsible for the damages. The Infowars presenter was sued by 15 plaintiffs, including the families of the victims and an FBI agent, for calling the 2012 massacre a hoax. The jury of six people was tasked with deciding how much the Infowars host should pay to the plaintiffs.
For each plaintiff, the jury was told to determine two compensatory damages amounts: one for emotional distress damages and one for defamation damages.
Following the reading of the judgment, some plaintiffs hugged in the courtroom. Jones wasn’t there, but on his Infowars show, split-screen live video from the court was broadcast.
“Hey, folks, don’t go buying big homes,” he said.
How much of the verdicts Jones can afford to pay is unknown. He testified that he couldn’t pay any judgment greater than $2 million during a recent trial in Texas. In July, Jones’ media organisation Free Speech Systems requested bankruptcy protection. However, an economist claimed that Jones and his business were worth up to $270 million during the Texas trial.
Jones has bashed the trial as a “kangaroo court,” described it as an affront to free speech rights, and called the judge a “tyrant.” His lawyer told the jury that any damages awarded should be minimal.
The trial featured emotional testimony from the victims’ parents and siblings, who described how they had endured years of harassment and threats from those who had bought into the lies Jones had spread.
They were being recorded at their homes by strangers. On social media, insulting comments were made. The slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung’s daughter, Erica Lafferty, claimed that she received rape threats in the mail. The burial of Mark Barden’s son Daniel, age 7, was urinated on by conspiracy theorists, who also threatened to remove the coffin, according to Mark Barden.
Several family members addressed this at an emotional news conference following the decision.
“All I can really say is I’m proud that what we were able to accomplish is to simply tell the truth. And it shouldn’t be this hard, and it shouldn’t be this scary,” said Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was killed in the shooting. “Every day in that courtroom, we got up on the stand and we told the truth.”
A jury in one of the trials ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children slain in one of the related lawsuits over the hoax lies in Austin, Texas, where Jones was also found responsible by default. Near the end of the year, a third trial is anticipated to start in Texas.
Jones toned down his rhetoric when he spoke under oath before the Texas jury. He claimed to have come to the conclusion that the fake lies were reckless and the school shooting was “100% real.”
The shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, resulted in the deaths of twenty children and six adults. A courthouse in Waterbury, which is about 20 miles away, hosted the trial.
The lawsuit claimed that Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent business of Infowars, utilised the mass murder to increase their viewership and generate millions of dollars. Experts testified that when Jones made Sandy Hook a theme of his show, both his audience and his earnings from product sales increased.
Jones generated more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018 selling products like survivalist gear and dietary supplements on Infowars, according to legal papers provided in the most recent Texas case.
A lawyer for the families in the Connecticut case, Josh Koskoff, said that “if this verdict shuts down Alex Jones, good.”
“He’s been walking in the shadow of death to try to profit on the backs of people who have just been devastated,” Koskoff said. “That is not a business model that should be sustainable in the United States.”