Alex Jones ordered to pay $965 million for Sandy Hook lies
“No amount of money will ever bring back the beautiful lives lost that tragic day, but this decision is resounding, long-awaited justice,” Blumenthal said in a tweet.
The verdict is the second big judgment against the host of InfoWars — a far-right outlet that peddles in conspiracy theories and disinformation — over his relentless promotion of the lie that the 2012 massacre never happened, and that the grieving families seen in news coverage were actors hired as part of a plot to take away people’s guns.
“Nobody should ever have to endure the kind of harassment & persecution that Alex Jones caused, especially the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said on Twitter. The jury “sent a strong message” that Jones’ actions were “disgraceful,” Lamont said.
It came in a lawsuit filed by the relatives of five children and three educators killed in the mass shooting, plus an FBI agent who was among the first responders to the scene. A Texas jury in August awarded nearly $50 million to the parents of another slain child.
“There will be more Alex Jones in this world, but what they learned here today is that they absolutely will be held accountable,” Erica Lafferty, whose mother, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, was the principal at Sandy Hook, said in a statement after the verdict was read. Lafferty said the verdict was one of many moments since the shooting in which she just wanted to call her mom, who was killed at the school.
In appearances on Wednesday, the victims’ families said their motivations in the lawsuit ranged from reclaiming their loved ones’ stories to preventing Jones from inciting further harassment on others.
“Money is all that Alex Jones cares about, and the only way to even begin to start to explain — I don’t know, how he’s made us feel — is to hit him in the pocket,” Lafferty said later Wednesday on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Both Robbie Parker, whose daughter was killed in the rampage, and Chris Mattei, an attorney for the victims’ families, called on Jones’ viewers to stop supporting him. Mattei said it would be good if the verdict shut down Jones and his business completely.
“Since 9/11, [Jones has] been walking in the shadow of death,” Mattei said. He added: “That is not a business model that should be sustainable in the United States of America.”
It’s also possible Jones could be asked to hand over additional damages; under Connecticut law, a judge could also decide he owes punitive damages on top of these compensatory ones, Mattei said on MSNBC’s “Alex Wagner Tonight.”
The Connecticut trial featured tearful testimony from parents and siblings of the victims, who told about how they were threatened and harassed for years by people who believed the lies told on Jones’ show.
Strangers showed up at their homes to record them. People hurled abusive comments on social media. Lafferty 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.
Jones, for his part, mocked the verdict live on his Infowars platform.
“I don’t have any money, so it’s all a big joke,” he said.
Testifying during the trial, Jones acknowledged he had been wrong about Sandy Hook. The shooting was real, he said. But both in the courtroom and on his show, he was defiant.
He called the proceedings a “kangaroo court,” mocked the judge, called the plaintiffs’ lawyer an ambulance chaser and labeled the case an affront to 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 done saying I’m sorry,” he said during his testimony.
Twenty children and six adults died in the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. The defamation trial was held at a courthouse in Waterbury, Conn., about 20 miles from Newtown, where the attack took place.
The lawsuit accused Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using the mass killing to build his audience and make millions of dollars. Experts testified that Jones’ audience swelled when he made Sandy Hook a topic on the show, as did his revenue from product sales.
In both the Texas lawsuit and the one in Connecticut, judges found the company liable for damages by default after Jones failed to cooperate with court rules on sharing evidence, including failing to turn over records that might have shown whether Infowars had profited from knowingly spreading misinformation about mass killings.
Because he was already found liable, Jones was barred from mentioning free speech rights and other topics during his testimony.
Jones now faces a third trial, in Texas around the end of the year, in a lawsuit filed by the parents of another child killed in the shooting.
It is unclear how much of the verdicts Jones can afford to pay. During the trial in Texas, he testified he couldn’t afford any judgment over $2 million. Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy protection. But an economist testified in the Texas proceeding that Jones and his company were worth as much as $270 million.
“We’re going to enforce this verdict,” Mattei said on MSNBC, “no matter how long it takes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.