A Connecticut jury on Wednesday ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay nearly $1 billion to people including relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, who endured relentless threats and harassment as the Infowars owner repeatedly claimed the shooting was a hoax staged by “crisis actors.”
Jones and Infowars parent company, Free Speech Systems, were ordered to pay $965 million to family members of eight Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the scene of the December 14, 2012 Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting in which 26 people—including 20 elementary school students—were murdered.
“There will be more Alex Jones in this world, but what they learned here today is that they absolutely will be held accountable,” said Erica Lafferty, mother of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, after she was awarded $76 million.
Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son Ben was killed in the shooting, told the court: “It is one thing to lose a child. It’s quite another thing when people take everything about your boy who is gone, and your surviving child, and your husband, and everything you ever did in your life on the internet and harass you.”
The verdict is in: InfoWars’ Alex Jones owes the families of Sandy Hook victims about $1 billion for defamation.
Here are the full eight minutes of the verdict. pic.twitter.com/0z6xaMRDY0
— The Recount (@therecount) October 12, 2022
Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told reporters outside the courthouse that “the jury’s verdict is a testament to that courage, in a resounding affirmation that people of goodwill, dedicated to the truth, mindful of their responsibilities to their fellow citizens can come together to protect the innocent, to reveal lies masquerading as truth, and to set right a historic wrong.”
“You may say that is astronomical. It is,” Mattei said of the judgment. “It’s exactly what Alex Jones set himself up to do. That’s what he built. He built a lie machine that could push this stuff out. You reap what you sow.”
Spurred by Jones’ lies, his supporters subjected the plaintiffs to menacing threats and merciless harassment, including accusing parents of faking their own children’s deaths. Some of the plaintiffs described feeling unsafe in their hometown; some of the families even left Newtown.
Just how much harm has Alex Jones caused?
Well not only have the families from Sandy Hook gotten thousands of death threats. Now nearly 1 in 5 Americans believe mass shootings have been faked by groups trying to promote stricter gun-control laws.
— David Hogg ☮️ (@davidhogg111) October 12, 2022
According to the Associated Press:
Strangers showed up at their homes to record them. People hurled abusive comments on social media. Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people mailed rape threats to her house. Mark Barden told of how conspiracy theorists had urinated on the grave of his 7-year-old son, Daniel, and threatened to dig up the coffin.
A Texas jury in August awarded nearly $50 million to the parents of another Sandy Hook victim. Due to state limits, the actual payout will be far less.
Jones was not in the Connecticut courtroom as Wednesday’s verdict was read. Instead, he live-streamed the court proceeding on an Infowars broadcast and laughed as the jury read the damages against him.
“Why not make it trillions?” he asked sardonically. “Do these people actually think they’re getting any of this money?”
Jones then implored his supporters to buy his overpriced dietary supplements, asking them to go to his website and “get all the great products that are there that keep us on air.”
Shortly before Jury ordered Alex Jones to pay $965M in damages to Sandy Hook families, Jones was on his show calling for Pfizer execs to be hanged.
The man is a destructive, deceitful and lethal menace. Let these damages crush him under weight of his own lies.
Fox News next.
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) October 12, 2022
“They want to scare us away from questioning Uvalde or Parkland,” he added, referring to two other U.S. mass shootings. “We’re not going away. We’re not going to stop.”
To that, Fred Guttenberg—whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of 17 people murdered during the February 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—replied: “If Alex Jones intends to now question Parkland, bring it. Alex is a scum-sucking low-life dirtbag who deserves his place in hell.”
Observers said that if upheld—Jones has vowed to appeal the “kangaroo court” verdict—Wednesday’s judgments could spell financial ruin for the conspiracy theorist and his Infowars empire.
“Remember, even if Alex Jones does not have $965 million in cash, the Sandy Hook families can now use this judgment to go after his property, assets, and to garnish his wages,” tweeted attorney Aaron Parnas. “He may never pay the full amount, but this judgment is going to cripple him.”
Just a reminder that the Republican Party has embraced Alex Jones every step of the way. They appear on his show. They invite him to their conferences. They credit him for their wins. They spread his conspiracy theories. The GOP is the party of Alex Jones.
— MeidasTouch (@MeidasTouch) October 12, 2022
Some of Jones’ supporters called Wednesday’s judgments an attack on free speech. In the past, numerous far-right figures including former President Donald Trump—who while running for office in 2015 said Jones’ “reputation is amazing”—have voiced their support for him.
“My audience,” added Trump, “90% of them, they support you.”
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