Far-right talk show host Alex Jones should pay eight families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims and a first responder nearly $1 billion in compensatory damages, a Connecticut jury decided Wednesday, capping a harrowing weeks trial that revealed serious damage. inflicted by the lies of the conspiracy theorist.
With its punitive award, the decision could curtail or even doom Jones’s Infowars media empire, which has been at the center of major conspiracy theories dating back to the administration of former President George W. Bush and was embraced by President Donald Trump.
The decision marks a key moment in the years-long process that began in 2018 when the families brought legal action against Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent of the fringe media organization Infowars.
Jones unsubstantiatedly said over and over again after the 2012 mass shooting, in which 26 people were killed, that the incident was staged and that families and first responders were “crisis actors.” Plaintiffs throughout the trial described in poignant terms how the lies had led to unrelenting harassment against them and compounded the emotional agony of losing loved ones.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit included family members of eight students and employees of the school, as well as an FBI agent who responded to the scene. All three cases were condensed into a single trial.
Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the plaintiffs, urged the jury to award at least $500 million for permanently destroying the lives of his clients. The figure, he said, would represent the more than 550 million online impressions that Jones’ Sandy Hook lie reportedly received online.
“You can say that’s astronomical. It is,” Mattei said. “It’s exactly what Alex Jones set out to do. That’s what he built. He built a machine of lies that could expel these things. You reap what you sow.”
The decision in Connecticut comes two months after a separate jury in Texas ruled that Jones and his company should award two Sandy Hook parents who sued in that state for nearly $50 million. 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 that the massacre had occurred while facing multiple lawsuits. But he failed to comply with court orders during the discovery process of lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas, leading families in each state to win default judgments against him.
During the latest trial, the families of the Sandy Hook victims offered emotional testimony, telling the jury in haunting terms how Jones’ lies about the shooting had permanently altered their lives and compounded the pain of losing loved ones.
Jones, who was questioned by plaintiffs’ attorneys but chose not to testify in his own defense as originally planned, tried to portray himself as the victim of an elaborate “deep state” conspiracy against him.
In a particularly explosive moment in the trial, Jones tangled with a plaintiffs’ attorney, accusing him of “chasing ambulances,” before launching into a deranged tirade in court about “liberals.”
The judge overseeing the case reprimanded Jones several times during his testimony, even warning him at one point that he could be held in contempt of court if he violated its rules in the future.
Jones has attacked the court process, even acknowledging in court that he had referred to the proceedings as a “kangaroo court” and called the judge a “tyrant.” He has already indicated that he intends to appeal.
This story is breaking and will be updated.