Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Has To Pay Nearly $1 Billion For Lies About School Shooting

Jurors on Wednesday ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay nearly $1 billion to relatives of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and an FBI agent, who said he turned their loss and trauma into years of torment by promoting the lie that the calamity was deception.

The $965 million verdict is the second major verdict against the Infowars host for spreading the myth that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history never happened, and that the grieving families featured in the coverage were actors hired as part of a plot to take people’s weapons.

The verdict came in a defamation lawsuit filed by some of the 26 people killed in the 2012 shooting, plus an FBI agent who was one of the first responders. A Texas jury awarded in August almost $50 million to the parents of another killed child.

Robbie Parker, who lost his 6-year-old daughterEmilie, said outside the Connecticut court that he was proud that “what we were able to accomplish was just telling the truth.”

“And it shouldn’t be that hard, and it shouldn’t be that scary,” said Parker, who became an early target of conspiracy theorists after speaking at a news conference the day after the shooting. The jury awarded him the most of any plaintiff: $120 million.

Jones was not at the court but was responding to his Infowars show.

When the courtroom video showed the plaintiffs’ names being read, along with the jury awards for each, Jones said he never mentioned their names himself.

“All made up. Hilarious,” he said. “So this is what a show trial looks like. I mean, this has gotten completely out of hand on the left.”

Jones’ attorney, Norm Pattis, said the verdict was higher than he expected. He plans to appeal.

The jury awarded various amounts to the victims’ next of kin, who testified that they had been threatened and harassed for years by people who believed the lies in Jones’s show. Strangers came to their homes to take them in. People threw insulting comments on social media.

Mark Barden testified that conspiracy theorists urinated on the grave of his 7-year-old son, Daniel, and threatened to dig up the coffin; Barden and his wife were awarded approximately $86 million together. Now-retired FBI agent William Aldenberg, was awarded $90 million, described the horror he saw at the school while responding along with other law enforcement officers, and his outrage at seeing online claims that he was an actor posing as a victim’s father.

Erica Lafferty, daughter of murdered Sandy Hook director Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people emailed rape threats to her house.

“I wish after today I could just be a daughter grieving for my mother and not worry about the conspiracy theorists anymore,” Lafferty said out of court. But she predicted that Jones’ “hate, lies and conspiracy theories will follow both me and my family for the rest of our days.”

For plaintiff William Sherlach, the verdict “shows that the Internet is not the wild, wild west and that your actions have consequences.”

He had testified about seeing posts online falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax, that his murdered wife, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, never existed; that he was part of a financial clique and somehow involved with the school shooter’s father; and more. He told jurors that the vitriol from the shooting worried him for the safety of his family.

“In the future — because unfortunately there will be other horrific events like this one — people like Alex Jones will have to rethink what they’re saying,” Sherlach said.

Jones testified at the trial, acknowledging that he had been wrong about Sandy Hook. Shooting was real, he said. But he was defiant both in court and on his show.

He called the proceedings a “kangaroo court,” mocked the judge, called the plaintiffs’ lawyer an ambulance fighter and labeled the case an affront to free speech. He claimed it was a conspiracy of the Democrats and the media to silence him and bankrupt him.

“I’ve 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; relatives of five children and three educators indicted in Connecticut. The trial was held at a courthouse in Waterbury, about 20 miles from Newtown, where the attack took place.

The lawsuit accused Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using the mass murder to build its audience and make millions of dollars. Experts testified that Jones’ audience increased, as did his product sales revenue, when he made Sandy Hook a topic on the show.

In both the Texas and Connecticut lawsuits, judges found the company default liable for damages after Jones failed to comply with court rules on evidence sharing, including failing to provide records that could have shown whether Infowars had benefited from the lawsuit. knowingly spreading misinformation about mass murders.

Because he had already been found liable, Jones was not allowed to mention the right to free speech 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’s unclear how much of the verdicts Jones can afford. At the Texas trial, he testified that he could not afford a judgment exceeding $2 million, and his lawyers plan to appeal and reduce the damages there. Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy protection.

But an economist testified in the Texas lawsuit that Jones and his company were worth a staggering $270 million.

A lawyer for the families in the Connecticut case, Josh Koskoff, said that “if this verdict silences Alex Jones, good.”

“He has walked in the shadow of death to try to take advantage of the backs of people who have just been devastated,” Koskoff said. “That’s not a business model that should be sustainable in the United States.”

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