Alex Jones Ordered To Pay Nearly $1 Billion In Damages To Sandy Hook Families – Update
2ND UPDATE, 12:50 PM: Parents of Sandy Hook shooting victims broke down in tears today as a jury in Waterbury, CT, awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for defamation, slander and emotional distress against Infowars founder Alex Jones, who has claimed the massacre was a hoax.
The dollar amounts — which closed in on $1 billion total — were different for each plaintiff and also include attorneys’ fees and other compensatory damages. Jones opted against appearing in court today.
The jury’s damages determination were only the latest against Jones, whose online show and media company regularly traffics in conspiracy theories yet has drawn a substantial audience.
Family members have described facing death threats and having the graves of their children defaced, triggered by Jones’ contention that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting massacre, in which 26 people were murdered, including 20 children, was a “false flag” operation.
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The damages amount was far higher than that of a Texas jury’s determination in August, which slapped Jones with $45.2 million in punitive damages. The latest $965 million damages figure may be reduced, given the state’s limits on punitive damages, but it is an indication of the gravity that jurors placed on Jones’ actions and the impact it had on the mourning families.
According to NBC News’ Ben Collins, Jones was on his show at the time the verdicts were being read. He quoted Jones as saying, “This must be what hell’s like. They just read out the damages, even though you don’t got the money.”
Read details about the case below.
UPDATE, August 5: A Texas jury slapped Alex Jones with $45.2 million in punitive damages for spreading the false claim that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting massacre was a hoax.
The jury’s award is added to the $4.1 million in compensatory damages the jury awarded to the parents of Jesse Lewis, who was among the 26 killed in the massacre, on Thursday. Jones already had been found liable in the parents’ defamation case, as they claimed that the Infowars host’s contention that Sandy Hook was a “false flag” operation subjected them to death threats and harassment.
It’s unclear whether the $45.2 figure will be upheld, as Texas law puts a cap on punitive damages.
Jones was not present in the courtroom when the verdict was read. He faced the parents earlier in the week, and has acknowledged that the Sandy Hook massacre was “100% real.” But Jones also was confronted by their attorney with some of Infowars recent attacks on the judge and his own characterization of the jury as “extremely blue collar folks.”
Jones faces two other damages trials brought by parents of Sandy Hook victims.
During testimony on Friday, an economist put the worth of Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, somewhere between $135 million and $270 million.
Lewis’ parents, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, sought $150 million in damages.
During closing arguments on Friday, one of the parents’ attorney, Wesley Ball told the jury, “You are asked to deter Alex Jones from every doing this awfulness again to another family or another person, and to deter others who may want to step into his shoes.”
You can see the judge reading the jury’s award below.
PREVIOUSLY, August 4: Alex Jones will have to pay at least $4.1 million in damages to the parents of one of the 6-year-old victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a jury decided on Thursday.
Jones, the conspiracy theorist behind Infowars, already lost his defamation lawsuit, and the jurors in the Texas case were trying to determine how much he owed in compensatory damages to Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was among the 26 killed in the massacre. Jurors will now move on to the next phase of the proceedings to decide on how much to award in punitive damages.
After Jones trafficked in the false claim that Sandy Hook was a false flag operation, the parents said that they then faced death threats and ongoing harassment. They had sought $150 million in damages.
The televised trial this week put Jones face to face with the parents, as they testified to the harm caused by his claims that the school shootings were a hoax. Jones, on the stand over two days, said that he now believes that Sandy Hook was “100% real,” while trying to push back on the idea that he was an ongoing denier of what happened.
But on Wednesday, Jones faced rigorous cross examination from the parents’ attorney, Mark Bankston. Bankston revealed to Jones that his attorneys had accidentally sent him two years’ worth of his text messages and emails.
Bankston told the court on Thursday that the January 6th Committee has requested those messages. Jones, who championed the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, was deposed as part of the January 6th Committee investigation. The judge in the case, Maya Guerra Gamble, denied a defense motion to seal the records and declare a mistrial.
Jones faces a damages trial in another case in Connecticut filed by a group of Sandy Hook families, as well as another case in Texas, where his company is based.
During the most recent trial, the parents’ attorney also confronted Jones with recent Infowars attacks on Gamble as well as Jones’ own characterization of the jury as “extremely blue collar folks.”
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.
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