Alex Jones has been ordered to pay $965m to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre who have suffered almost a decade of abuse and harassment because of the right-wing extremist’s lies about their murdered loved ones.
Jurors in Connecticut reached the verdict on Wednesday afternoon after deliberating for more than three days in the Infowars host’s second of three defamation trials over his targeted attacks on families torn apart by the 2012 mass shooting.
Mr Jones, who was previously ordered to pay a victim’s family more than $49m, was not in the courtroom as the jury returned their unanimous verdict for compensatory damages against him.
The verdict takes the staggering total now facing Mr Jones to more than $1bn.
The sum is significantly more than the $550m requested by lawyers representing the families of eight victims and an FBI agent who were all defamed by Mr Jones.
The verdict came following four weeks of fraught courtroom testimony where parents broke down in tears testifying about the toll Mr Jones’s lies had taken on their families while the conspiracy theorist showed no remorse, ranting that he was “done apologising”.
Even as his lies were on display in the courtroom for the whole world to see, Mr Jones continued to monetise the tragedy by mocking the judge and the so-called “kangaroo court” on his Infowars show.
A further hearing on attorneys fees and costs and whether even more punitive damages will be awarded against Mr Jones will be held in November.
Jurors began deliberations on Thursday afternoon after attorneys for both the Sandy Hook families and for Jones delivered closing arguments that morning.
Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the Sandy Hook families, urged jurors to reach a substantial settlement, poinitng out how Mr Jones and his company had profited from the lies he spread, gaining an estimated 550 million views from his Sandy Hook “hoax” content between 2012 and 2018 alone.
“Every single one of these families were drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them,” he said.
“You saw — he’s going on 10 years of defaming these families, and it’s not stopping,” he added.
“This is their one chance, and your one chance — your one chance — to render a verdict on just how much devastation Alex Jones has caused.”
Meanwhile, Mr Jones’s attorney Norm Pattis – who previously represented late accused killer Fotis Dulos – gave a bizarre closing argument where he described his client as a “mad prophet” who had simply been trying to warn his followers about a “globalist” dystopian future.
At one point, Mr Pattis was admonished by the judge when he accused the attorneys for the victims’ families of being “in it for the money”.
“It doesn’t mean a thing here for the plaintiffs if it doesn’t go ka-ching,” Mr Pattis said.
On 14 December 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza murdered 20 students aged just six and seven years old and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Around two hours on from the massacre, Mr Jones began spouting lies, claiming on his conspiracy show that the mass shooting was “a giant hoax” and that the victims’ families were “actors”.
He continued to push the lies to his followers for years claiming it was a “false flag” operation – that the six and seven-year-olds killed never even existed and that the murders never even happened.
While Mr Jones profited financially from spreading his lies, the victims’ families were subjected to years of in-person and online harassment and threats from people spurred on by the conspiracy theorist’s rants.
In heartbreaking courtroom testimony, Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung who was killed in the massacre, told the court that she had been forced to move five times to try to get away from the threats and harassment.
“For 27 years of my life, that woman was my best friend,” Ms Lafferty said of her mother.
“For people to tell me she didn’t exist, how do you just let that happen?”
Mark Barden, father of murdered six-year-old Daniel, revealed how his daughter discovered letters sent to the family saying that they had urinated on her little brother’s grave and wanted to dig up his body.
Some of the most harrowing testimony came from Robbie Parker, who revealed how the far-right conspiracy theorist left him feeling like he “failed” his six-year-old daughter Emilie who was murdered in the mass shooting.
One day after the massacre, the devastated father gave a brief speech to the media where he paid tribute to his little girl who “made the world a better place” for being in it.
Unbeknownst to Mr Parker at the time, it was the first time any of the victims’ family members had spoken out publicly following their deaths.
As he walked up to the microphone, he briefly smiled – something that instantly made him a target of the conspiracy theorist’s lies.
Over the following years, Mr Jones repeatedly mocked Mr Parker’s heartbreaking moment of intense grief on his far-right conspiracy show and branded him “a soap opera actor”.
Choking back tears, Mr Parker told jurors how he believed he was “failing” Emilie’s memory as Mr Jones lies continued to spread lies about her.
“I already felt like I failed Emilie as a dad when she was alive because we sent her to school,” Mr Parker testified.
“And I was especially starting to feel like I was failing her in her death because of what people were saying about her and what they were saying about me trying to remember her.”
He described one chilling incident in the fall of 2016 – four years after the massacre and 3,000 miles away in Seattle – a stranger in the street confronted him and began hurling abuse at him calling him a “f***ing piece of s***” and telling him his murdered daughter was “alive”.
“’Emilie is alive isnt she? She’s alive.’ He keeps going and keeps going,” Mr Parker testified.
The incident came around the same time that a colleague on Mr Jones’s Infowars show branded Mr Parker “a worse actor than Glenn Beck”.
When Mr Jones took the stand, he was confronted with his lies and asked whether he could see that Mr Parker – who was sat in the courtroom – “is real”.
But, Mr Jones refused to acknowledge any responsibility and denied putting “a target on his back” – instead launching into a furious rant shouting that he was “done apologising” for causing a decade of harassment to the victims’ families.
“I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times. And I’m done saying sorry,” he fumed as family members of some of the victims looked on crying in court.
He added: “I have already apologised to the parents over and over again, I am not apologising to you. I do not apologise to you.”
Mr Jones complained that “people think that I killed the kids” and went on an unhinged rant about Iraq.
The judge was forced to remind Mr Jones that the courtroom is “not your show”.
Mr Jones was expected to take the stand again in his defence but initially said he would plead the fifth and then declined to testify at all.
The Connecticut trial comes less than two months after his first defamation trial wrapped up in Texas.
In that trial, jurors ordered him to pay $4.11m in compensatory damages and $45.2m in punitive damages to the Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the parents of murdered six-year-old Jesse Lewis.
Mr Jones will likely pay a lot less for the punitive damages due to caps in Texas courts.
He is also awaiting trial on a third defamation case brought by the family of six-year-old victim Noah Pozner.
That trial is set to take place in the same Travis County courtroom as the first.
No date has been set for that trial, which is expected to face further delays because Mr Jones has filed for bankruptcy.
Victims’ families filed multiple lawsuits years ago but it wasn’t until last year that he lost by default in all of the suits.
Since then, the far-right extremist has made multiple attempts to avoid paying out to the victims’ families by delaying court proceedings and filing for bankruptcy.
In April – one week before his first trial – he filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of Texas for Infowars and two other entities he owns, claiming liabilities of as much as $10m each. The filings enable a business to keep operating while it prepares a turnaround plan and also pauses civil litigation.
It was tossed in June after attorneys for Mr Jones and the Sandy Hook families reached a deal to drop his three companies from the defamation lawsuits in exchange for the suits continuing. Mr Jones then filed for bankruptcy for a second time in the middle of the trial in July.
Attorneys for the Sandy Hook families have accused the right-wing extremist of hiding millions of dollars in an attempt to avoid paying damages.
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