A Connecticut jury awarded nearly $1 billion in damages to 15 plaintiffs who claimed Alex Jones defamed them when he said the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax staged by actors following a script written by the government to build support for gun control.
The clerk read out the verdict, with the plaintiffs sobbing in the gallery, in which the jury decided compensatory damages for both slander and emotional distress.
The damages awarded on Wednesday total $965 million, far exceeding the amount awarded in a previous Texas case. In that case, which was decided in August, he was ordered to pay just under $50 million.
On Wednesday, the jury also awarded attorneys’ fees and costs.
Jones, who was on the air with his radio show at the time of the verdict, told his listeners, “This must be what hell is like — they just read out the damages, even though you don’t have the money.”
His lawyer, Norm Pattis, told reporters that they intend to appeal the decision.
“From start to finish, this case was rigged,” Pattis said outside the courthouse. “We disagree with the default’s basis, and we disagree with the court’s evidentiary rulings.”
“In over 200 trials in my career, I’ve never seen a trial like this,” he continued.
Plaintiffs, victims’ relatives, and an FBI agent who responded to the scene testified that Jones’ followers tormented them by believing his lies about the massacre. In the decade since the shooting, the families claim they have been harassed and threatened.
Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, thanked his lawyers for assisting him in “fighting and standing up to what had been happening to me for so long.”
“I’m just glad we were able to accomplish something as simple as telling the truth. And it shouldn’t be this difficult. And it shouldn’t be this frightening “he said in a tearful statement outside the courthouse.
Parker thanked the jury “not just for their verdict, but for what they had to endure, what they had to listen to,” he added.
Bill Sherlach, whose wife, Mary, was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, warned “Alex Jones wants tobes” that the trial and verdict “set a pretty high hurdle in terms of what the cost will be for them to enter that realm of lies and deception.”
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued a statement in response to the verdict.
“Nobody, especially the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, should ever have to endure the kind of harassment and persecution that Alex Jones caused,” he said in a statement. “A jury in Connecticut today sent a strong message that what he did to these families and a first responder was disgraceful.”
Jones testified that he thought the shooting was staged at the time, but that he now believes it was real. He declined to apologize to the families in this trial, claiming that he had already apologized enough.
A judge found Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, liable in a defamation lawsuit last year, with plaintiffs including an FBI agent who responded to the scene and eight families of victims Jones referred to as actors.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer requested that Jones pay $550 million to a group of Sandy Hook parents who claim Jones spread lies about the mass shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school children.
Chris Mattei, the attorney, asked the six jurors to “consider the scope of the defamation,” citing Jones’ claim that the families “faked their 6- or 7-year-old death” as an example.
Pattis told jurors that it was not their responsibility to bankrupt Jones in order for him to stop broadcasting lies.
Pattis claimed to represent a “despised human being,” but he refused to accept the half-billion-dollar settlement offered by the plaintiffs’ attorney.
“It would take hundreds of years for a person earning $100,000 per year to make $550 million,” Pattis said in his closing statement.
Jones will face a third and final trial, which could result in yet another large damage award.