Alex Jones ordered to pay $965 million in Sandy Hook defamation trial
This is the second trial Jones has faced about his false claims.
A Connecticut jury awarded nearly $1 billion in damages to 15 plaintiffs defamed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones when the Infowars host called the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a hoax staged by actors following a script written by the government to build support for gun control.
With the plaintiffs sobbing in the gallery, the clerk read out the verdict in which the jury decided compensatory damages for both slander and for emotional distress.
The damages awarded Wednesday total $965 million -- far exceeding the award in a prior case in Texas. He was ordered to pay just shy of $50 million in that case, which was decided in August.
The jury also awarded attorneys fees and costs Wednesday.
Jones, who was on the air with his radio program as the verdict was read, told his listeners, "This must be what hell is like -- they just read out the damages, even though you don't got the money."
His attorney, Norm Pattis, told reporters they plan to appeal the decision.
"Candidly, from start to finish, the fix was in this case," Pattis said outside the courthouse. "We disagree with the basis of the default, we disagree with the court's evidentiary rulings."
"In more than 200 trials in the course of my career, I've never seen a trial like this," he continued.
The plaintiffs, relatives of victims and an FBI agent who responded to the scene testified that they were tormented by Jones' followers who believed his lies about the massacre. The families said they were harassed and threatened in the decade since the shooting.
One of the plaintiffs, Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, thanked his lawyers for helping him "fight and stand up to what had been happening to me for so long."
"I'm just proud that what we were able to accomplish was just to simply tell the truth. And it shouldn't be this hard. And it shouldn't be this scary," he said in an emotional statement given outside the courthouse.
Parker expressed gratitude for the jury "not just because of their verdict, but for what they had to endure, what they had to listen to," he continued.
Bill Sherlach, whose wife, Mary, was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, warned "Alex Jones wannabes" that the trial and verdict "set a pretty high hurdle in terms of what the cost will be for them to enter into that realm of lies and deceit."
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont reacted to the verdict.
"Nobody should ever have to endure the kind of harassment and persecution that Alex Jones caused, especially the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School," 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 he believed at the time that the shooting might have been staged, but he has since said he now believes it's real. He declined to apologize to the families on the stand in this trial, saying he had already apologized enough.
A judge last year found Jones and Infowars' parent company, Free Speech Systems, liable in the defamation lawsuit, with plaintiffs that include an FBI agent who responded to the scene and eight families of victims that Jones called actors.
The plaintiffs' attorney had asked that Jones pay $550 million to a group of Sandy Hook parents, who claim the Infowars host spread lies about the mass shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school children.
The attorney, Chris Mattei, asked the six jurors to "think about the scale of the defamation," citing as one example Jones' claim the families, "faked their 6- or 7-year-old's death."
Pattis told jurors it was not their job to bankrupt Jones so he would stop broadcasting lies.
Pattis said he represents a "despised human being" but balked at the half-billion-dollar sum proposed by the plaintiffs' attorney.
"It would take a person earning $100,000 a year hundreds of years to make $550 million," Pattis said during his closing statement.
Jones faces a third, and final, trial that could result in another hefty damage award.
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