A Connecticut jury has reached a verdict on how much far-right talk show host Alex Jones should pay eight families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and a first responder, capping a devastating weeks-long trial that exposed the public to the serious damage caused by the conspiracy theorist’s lies.
The decision marks the culmination of a multi-year process that began in 2018, when the families took legal action against Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent of the fringe media organization Infowars.
Jones has unsubstantiatedly said time and time again after the 2012 mass shooting that killed 26 people that the incident was staged and that the families and first responders were “crisis agents.” The plaintiffs throughout the trial described in painful terms how the lies had caused relentless harassment against them and compounded the emotional anguish of losing their loved ones.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included family members of eight students and employees, in addition to an FBI agent who responded to the scene. All three cases were consolidated in the single trial.
Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the plaintiffs, urged jurors to award at least half a billion dollars for the permanent destruction of his clients’ lives. The number, he said, would represent the more than 550 million online impressions Jones’ Sandy Hook lies allegedly received online.
“You might say it’s astronomical. It is,” Mattei said. “It’s exactly what Alex Jones set himself out to do. This he built. He built a lie machine that could push these things out. What you sow, you reap.”
The Connecticut decision comes two months after a separate jury in Texas ruled that Jones and his company should be awarded nearly $50 million to two Sandy Hook parents who sued that state. Later this month, the judge in that case will consider whether to reduce the punitive damages awarded under Texas law.
While Jones initially lied about the 2012 shooting, he later acknowledged the massacre had occurred as he faced multiple lawsuits. However, he failed to comply with court orders during the discovery process of the Connecticut and Texas lawsuits, resulting in families in each state winning default judgments against him.
During the final trial, families of Sandy Hook victims gave emotional testimony, telling jurors in haunting terms how Jones’ lies about the shooting had forever changed their lives and exacerbated the pain of losing their loved ones.
Jones, who was cross-examined by plaintiffs’ lawyers but chose not to testify in his own defense as originally planned, sought to portray himself as the victim of an elaborate “deep state” conspiracy against him.
In one particularly explosive moment of the trial, Jones tangled with a plaintiffs’ lawyer, accusing him of “ambulance-chasing,” before devolving into an open rant in court about “liberals.”
The judge overseeing the case admonished Jones several times during his testimony, even warning him at one point that he could be held in contempt of court if he violated her rules by going forward.
Jones attacked the court proceedings, even admitting in court that he had referred to the proceedings as a “kangaroo court” and called the judge a “tyrant”. He has already said he plans to appeal.
This story is breaking and will be updated.