WATERBURY, Conn. — A Connecticut jury on Wednesday ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $965 million to people who suffered from his false claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was a hoax.
Eight families were awarded the money in the verdict, the largest cash award so far in a legal battle to hold the Infowars founder accountable for circulating falsehoods about the mass shooting, where 20 children and six school staff members were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, The Washington Post reported.
The jury’s decision divided the money among 15 plaintiffs, according to The New York Times: 14 relatives of eight Sandy Hook victims, and William Aldenberg, an FBI agent targeted by conspiracy theorists. The plaintiffs were awarded varying amounts by the jurors, according to the newspaper.
It is the second big judgment against Jones, who said that the mass shooting never happened and that the grieving families seen in media coverage were actors hired as a part of a scheme to take away people’s guns, according to The Associated Press.
“You may say that is astronomical. It is,” said Christopher Mattei, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “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.”
Jones’ attorneys said they would appeal the decision.
During the trial, family members testified that Jones’ falsehoods led to harassment and threats by conspiracy theorists, who accused them of faking their children’s deaths, the Post reported. They said they felt unsafe in their homes and were highly vigilant in public. Some of the families of the victims moved away from Newtown.
The families first took legal action against Jones in 2018 when they sued him and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent organization of Infowars, CNN reported.
During the trial, Jones admitted that he had been wrong about Sandy Hook, the AP reported. But he remained defiant in court and on his show, calling the proceedings a “kangaroo court.” Jones also mocked the judge and called the plaintiffs’ attorney an ambulance chaser.
“I’ve already said ‘I’m sorry’ hundreds of times and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” Jones said during his testimony.
Jones faces a third Sandy Hook damages trial pending from a defamation suit he lost to Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah Pozner, the Times reported.
In an earlier trial, in a lawsuit brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of Jesse Lewis, Jones was ordered to pay $4 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages to Heslin and Lewis, according to the newspaper.
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