Alex Jones ordered to pay $965M US for false claims about Sandy Hook massacre
The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay $965 million US to people who suffered from his false claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, a jury in Connecticut decided Wednesday.
The verdict is the second big judgment against the Infowars host over his relentless promotion of the lie that the 2012 massacre never happened, and that the grieving families seen in news coverage were actors hired as part of a plot to take away people’s guns.
It came in a lawsuit filed by the relatives of five children and three educators killed in the mass shooting, plus an FBI agent who was among the first responders to the scene. A Texas jury in August awarded nearly $50 million US to the parents of another slain child.
Robbie Parker, who lost his six-year-old daughter, Emilie, said outside the court that he was proud that “what we were able to accomplish was just to simply tell the truth.”
But, he added, his voice breaking: “It shouldn’t be this hard, and it shouldn’t be this scary.”
Jones wasn’t at court but reacted on his Infowars show.
As courtroom video showed the plaintiffs’ names being read out along with the jury awards to each, Jones said that he himself had never mentioned their names.
“All made up. Hilarious,” he said. “So this is what a show trial looks like. I mean, this is the left completely out of control.”
Jones’s lawyer, Norm Pattis, said the verdict was higher than he expected. He plans to appeal.
The trial featured tearful testimony from parents and siblings of the victims, who told about how they were threatened and harassed for years by people who believed the lies told on Jones’s show.
Parents of victims spoke of harassment
They said that strangers showed up at their homes to record them and people hurled abusive comments on social media.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people mailed rape threats to her house. Mark Barden told the court how conspiracy theorists had urinated on the grave of his seven-year-old son, Daniel, and threatened to dig up the coffin.
Testifying during the trial, Jones acknowledged he had been wrong about Sandy Hook. The shooting was real, he said. But both in the courtroom and on his show, he was defiant.
He called the proceedings a “kangaroo court,” mocked the judge, called the plaintiffs’ lawyer an ambulance chaser and labelled the case an affront to free speech rights. He claimed it was a conspiracy by Democrats and the media to silence him and put him out of business.
“I’ve already said ‘I’m sorry’ hundreds of times and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” he said during his testimony.
Twenty children and six adults died in the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. The defamation trial was held at a courthouse in Waterbury, about 32 kilometres from Newtown, where the attack took place.
Jones accused of profiting from mass killing
The lawsuit accused Jones and Infowars‘ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using the mass killing to build his audience and make millions of dollars. Experts testified that Jones’s audience swelled when he made Sandy Hook a topic on the show, as did his revenue from product sales.
In both the Texas lawsuit and the one in Connecticut, judges found the company liable for damages by default after Jones failed to co-operate with court rules on sharing evidence, including failing to turn over records that might have showed whether Infowars had profited from knowingly spreading misinformation about the mass killings.
Because he was already found liable, Jones was barred from mentioning free speech rights and other topics during his testimony.
Jones now faces a third trial, in Texas around the end of the year, in a lawsuit filed by the parents of another child killed in the shooting.
It is unclear how much of the verdicts Jones can afford to pay. During the trial in Texas, he testified he couldn’t afford any judgment over $2 million.
Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy protection. But an economist testified in the Texas proceeding that Jones and his company were worth as much as $270 million.
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Published at Wed, 12 Oct 2022 19:55:14 +0000