Alex Jones ordered to pay nearly $1 billion to Sandy Hook Families
Alex Jones will owe families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting $965 million for promoting the lie that the massacre was a hoax, a Connecticut jury determined Wednesday afternoon.
The six-member jury reached a unanimous verdict, awarding tens of millions of dollars to each of the 15 plaintiffs in the case.
Several of the family members sat crying in the courtroom as the verdict was announced.
Jurors spent days deliberating how much money Jones owed. A judge last year found Jones and his company liable by default for defaming and inflicting emotional distress on the plaintiffs.
Twenty children and six educators were killed in the shooting.
Family members of those killed gathered outside the Waterbury court Wednesday afternoon to react to the jury’s verdict.
Erica Lafferty said she’s thankful for the message sent by the jury – that truth matters. Her mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was the school principal killed in the shooting.
“After almost a decade of threats and messages from conspiracy theorists led by Jones, this is a moment years in the making,” Lafferty told reporters. “And in this big moment, like in every big moment since the shooting, I wish I could just call my mom and tell her about it.”
Robbie Parker’s 6-year old daughter Emilie was among those killed at the school. During the trial, he testified how the harassment he faced was so intense that he had to move thousands of miles away from Connecticut.
Outside the courtroom, Parker thanked his lawyers.
“Our lawyers helped give me the strength to finally find my voice in the fight and to stand up to what had been happening to me so long,” Parker said. “I let my voice be taken away from me, and my power be taken away from me, at the expense of my daughter and at the expense of my family.”
The jury awarded him the most of any plaintiff: $120 million.
Chris Mattei, an attorney representing the Sandy Hook families, had a message for Jones’ followers.
“All Alex Jones does is take from you, exploit you, lie to you, feed your fears and your anxieties and your mistrust and the only person that benefits in that equation is him," Mattei said. "Well, that stops. That’s stopping today thanks to the courage of these families."
Mattei said regardless if Jones plans to appeal, he plans to head to Texas to track down any transfers of assets that Jones may have made related to his and his company’s bankruptcy filing.
Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, said they will appeal. He called the verdict a “dark day” for freedom of speech.
“From start to finish, the fix was in on this case,” Pattis said. “We disagree with the basis of the default, we disagree with the court’s evidentiary rulings. In more than 200 trials in the course of my career, I’ve never seen a trial like this. And we very very very much look forward to an appeal.”
Pattis said his heart goes out to the Sandy Hook families, saying they’ve been weaponized and used for political purposes.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont applauded the jury for its verdict.
“Nobody should ever have to endure the kind of harassment and persecution that Alex Jones caused, especially the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Lamont said in a statement. “A jury in Connecticut today sent a strong message that what he did to these families and a first responder was disgraceful.”
The trial was marked by emotional testimony from several family members of victims who recounted threats of rape and death – alongside accusations from conspiracy theorists that they were “crisis actors” – a lie Jones promoted on his Infowars program.
During last week’s closing arguments, Mattei reminded the jury why they were so important.
"The families were drowning in grief and Alex Jones put his foot on them," Mattei said in the courtroom.
“The lies that started on Dec. 14, 2012, are continuing to this very day,” Mattei said during closing arguments. “In two months it will be 10 years, 10 years since these families lost their loved ones and even now, even now, he's still doing it.”
Jones declined to take the stand as a defense witness.
Jones was sued for defamation in 2018. Jones has portrayed the families as part of a conspiracy to fake the shooting and take people’s guns. He’s told many lies about the shooting, and said that the tragedy was “as fake as the $3 bill."
In a similar trial earlier this year in Texas, a jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million to the parents of a first grader killed at Sandy Hook.
Connecticut Public's Eric Aasen, Cassandra Basler and Camila Vallejo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.