A jury in Connecticut concluded on Wednesday that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay $965 million to victims who suffered because of his false assertion that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a fabrication.
This is the second major ruling against the Infowars host for his promotion of a false narrative that the 2012 massacre never occurred and that the mourning families seen in TV coverage were actors hired as part of a scheme to take away people’s guns.
It was included in a lawsuit filed by the families of six victims of the shooting: five children, three teachers, and an FBI agent who arrived on the scene quickly. In August, a Texas jury gave nearly $50 million to the parents of another kid who had been murdered.
When the verdict was read, some of the plaintiffs hugged each other in the courtroom. While Jones was absent, viewers of his Infowars program were treated to a split-screen presentation of live courtroom footage.
“Hey, folks, don’t go buying big homes,” he said.
At Jones’ trial, parents and siblings of the victims testified tearfully about how they had been threatened and harassed for years by individuals who believed the lies on his show.
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Unknown people showed up at their houses and started recording them. People spewed hateful remarks all over Twitter. Dawn Hochsprung’s daughter Erica Lafferty testified that rape threats were sent to her home. Mark Barden said that conspiracy theorists had urinated on his son Daniel’s grave and threatened to pull up the coffin when he was just seven years old.
During his testimony, Jones admitted that he was mistaken about Sandy Hook. What happened with the shooting, he claimed, was quite real. However, he was defiant in court and on air.
He insulted the judge, referred to the plaintiff’s attorney as an “ambulance chaser,” and characterized the trial as an attack on the right to free expression. To him, it seemed like the Democrats and the media were out to get him and his company, he said.
In court, he stated, “I’ve already said ‘I’m sorry hundreds of times and I’m done saying I’m sorry.
On December 14, 2012, a gunman opened fire, killing twenty children and six adults. The court hearing on the libel suit took place in Waterbury, some 32 kilometers (about 20 miles) from Newtown, the site of the shooting.
Jones and Infowars’ parent business, Free Speech Systems, were sued for allegedly capitalizing on the tragedy for their own gain. According to testimonies from industry experts, Jones’ viewership and product sales both increased after he discussed Sandy Hook on his show.
When Jones refused to comply with court rules regarding the sharing of evidence, including refusing to turn over records that might have shown whether Infowars had profited from knowingly spreading misinformation about mass killings, judges in both the Texas lawsuit and the Connecticut lawsuit found the company liable for damages by default.
Jones was not permitted to discuss his right to free speech or any other topic during his testimony because he had already been found responsible.
Jones will go on trial for the third time in a lawsuit filed by the parents of another kid slain in the incident sometime before the end of the year in Texas.
How much of the verdicts Jones will be able to pay is unknown. In court in Texas, he claimed that he was financially unable to pay any verdict in excess of $2 million. To avoid financial ruin, Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy. An economist testified in the Texas case, however, that Jones and his company could be worth as much as $270 million.
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