Alex Jones must pay $965 million in damages to families and an FBI agent ravaged by the Infowars founder’s lie that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax, a Connecticut jury found today.
The families’ lawyers had suggested jurors use $550 million as a “baseline” for calculating damages — roughly one dollar for every social media impression Jones’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts jointly racked up during the six years following the 2012 mass shooting.
“You have to stand up to a bully, because bullies won’t stop, especially when being a bully makes them very, very rich,” Chris Mattei, one of the families’ lawyers, told the jury in closing arguments on Oct. 6. He asked the panel to return a verdict “that makes Alex Jones realize just how devastating his conduct has been.”
“This was not just the occasional lie — this was the use of lies to fuel a business,” the lawyers told Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis during a jury break. “It was a business plan to hurt these families and to sell things by hurting them.” Testimony from an employee of Jones pegged his total earnings from the sale of dietary supplements, books and survival gear at $100 million to $1 billion since the shooting, with $810,000 in sales on a single day in 2020.
Jones faces the possibility of an even greater penalty if Bellis opts to award punitive damages under a state law that forbids using false statements to sell products. She previously found Jones in violation of that statute.
Jones has said he is almost broke. “They could get a $1 billion verdict, and they wouldn’t get a dime,” he said during one sidewalk press conference. He also denounced the judge and jury as “rigged” and mocked the trial as a “kangaroo court.”
The six-person state jury reached its verdict at the end of a four-week trial, in which the combative internet host and the victims’ families both said Jones’s false claims about the Newtown, Connecticut, rampage had ruined their lives. Jones said defamation lawsuits by families of the 26 murdered schoolchildren and educators had driven him into bankruptcy. Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company, filed for protection from creditors in late July in Texas, where Jones lives.
The jury was asked to calculate only how much Jones owes the families and a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who responded to the shooting, because the judge had already found him liable for defamation in a separate proceeding.
Jones appeared inside the courtroom on only one day, to testify under subpoena, before opting to “boycott” the proceedings. Through his attorney, Norm Pattis, he claimed the judge’s restrictions on what he could tell jurors put him in an “untenable position” that violated his free speech rights. Before the trial began, Bellis forbade the talk show host to testify about his political beliefs, conspiracy theories, gun control or First Amendment issues he claims explain and excuse his false statements about Sandy Hook.
Victims’ families told the jury about how Jones’s repeated lies not only deepened their pain but also drove his followers to stalk them in person and online. Some of them said they had moved five or six times to escape the harassment, but that Jones’s fans kept finding them to renew their torment.
“This was a horror beyond anything we could ever imagine,” Mark Barden, father of a 7-year-old boy killed at Sandy Hook, testified about death threats and hateful comments Jones acolytes posted on his family’s website and social media accounts. Gun Conspiracy
Pattis suggested to jurors that the families were exaggerating their suffering to advance a political plot to confiscate guns, the central theme of Jones’s Sandy Hook conspiracy theory. He portrayed Jones as “a businessman who kept his business afloat by appealing to the fears of people” who shared his “loss of faith in public institutions.”
The trial, which took place about 20 miles from where the shooting occurred, was the second to hold Jones financially accountable for his Sandy Hook lies. In Texas he was ordered to pay almost $50 million in damages to the family of a first-grader killed at Sandy Hook. That verdict could be reduced under state law capping damages.
During his short appearance on the stand, Jones declared he was “done apologizing” for his Sandy Hook statements, adding he had admitted “years ago” that the massacre really happened. But on Infowars shows that aired during the trial, he defiantly walked back those statements, saying he now views both Sandy Hook and the defamation trial he called a sham as “synthetic.” A video clip of those comments was shown to the jury during closing arguments.
The case is Lafferty v. Jones, UWY-CV-18-6046436-S, Connecticut Superior Court, Waterbury District.
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