Self-described “entertainer” Alex Jones has been ordered to pay almost $1 billion to families of victims of a mass shooting in Connecticut.
The Oct. 12 jury verdict concluded Jones, the controversial InfoWars must pay the money for defamation, slander, and emotional damages.
Jurors said the plaintiffs should also be awarded attorney’s fees, which are set to be determined in November.
Jones for years claimed that family members of victims were actors who faked the tragedy and described the shooting as being staged as part of a government plot to take away Americans’ guns.
For years, many have fallen for Jone’s comments as fact but during the trial, he admitted his persona and programming content was for entertainment purposes only.
The plaintiffs in the case were relatives of 20 children and six staff members who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother at their home and then went to the school, where he opened fire, according to authorities.
The verdict, which came after three weeks of testimony in a state court in Waterbury, Connecticut, far outstripped the $49 million Jones was ordered to pay by a Texas jury in a similar case earlier this year. Jones’s lawyers have said they’ll appeal that amount.
Lawyers for families of eight Sandy Hook victims during closing arguments in Connecticut said Jones cashed in for years on lies about the shooting, which drove traffic to his InfoWars website and boosted sales of various products promoted there.
The families suffered a decade-long campaign of harassment and death threats driven by Jones, attorney Chris Mattei said. “Every single one of these families drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them,” Mattei told jurors.
Some of the family members testified during the trial.
“After the shock of Ben’s murder, we were … I felt like I was underwater. And I didn’t know which way was up,” David Wheeler, father of Benjamin Wheeler, 6, one of the Sandy Hook victims. “You’re grasping with that, you’re trying to get your head around that, and to have someone publicly telling the world that it didn’t happen and that you’re a fraud and a phony is incredibly disorienting.”
Jones’s lawyer said during his closing arguments that the plaintiffs had shown scant evidence of quantifiable losses. The attorney, Norman Pattis, urged jurors to ignore the political undercurrents in the case. “This is not a case about politics,” Pattis said. “It’s about how much to compensate the plaintiffs.”
Jones, who has since acknowledged that the shooting occurred, testified and railed against his “liberal” critics.
During a press conference outside the courthouse in Waterbury, Jones said he has apologized repeatedly for his remarks.
“I have apologized for six years for anything that I did wrong questioning Sandy Hook. I didn’t question Sandy Hook to be mean, I wasn’t the leader in questioning Sandy Hook, but I did say things that were hurtful and not true. But I did not do it on purpose,” Jones said.
He also said, “I have a right to question something.”