A jury in Connecticut ruled that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay the families of eight victims killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting and an FBI agent who responded to the scene almost $1 billion in damages for spending years falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax.
Jones was found liable for defamation last year after he spent years spreading lies about the 2012 shooting, which killed 20 children and 6 adults. The families of the victims said Jones profited from his lies while his followers continuously harassed them.
The verdict from the six-person jury, announced on Wednesday afternoon, came after three weeks of testimony in a state court in Waterbury, Connecticut. During the trial, the 15 plaintiffs — relatives of victims and the FBI agent — testified that they were harassed by Jones supporters who believed his lies about the shooting.
The jury was asked to decide how much Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, should pay for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress to the families of the children who were killed during the 2012 shooting.
The prosecution had urged the jurors to award the families at least half a billion dollars. In the end, the jury settled on $965 million. The plaintiffs were awarded varying amounts by the jurors.
In a press conference hosted after the damages were announced, Chris Mattei, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the jury's verdict was a testament to the courage of the families and a "resounding affirmation that people of goodwill, dedicated to truth, mindful of their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, can come together to protect the innocent."
After years of fear, threats, and harassment, the victims' families "decided to take a stand" against Jones, Mattei said. "They took a stand for themselves, they took a stand to affirm that the lives of their loved ones, their children were real ... and not to be used as cheap props to be torn apart for Alex Jones' profit."
Robbie Parker, the father of 6-year-old Emilie, also spoke to reporters.
"I'm just proud that what we were able to accomplish was to simply tell the truth. It shouldn't be this hard, it shouldn't be this scary," Parker said. "That's all we did every day in that courtroom. ... Everybody that took the stand told the truth, except for one."
Six families and the FBI agent first filed this defamation lawsuit against Jones in 2018, claiming that he “developed, amplified and perpetuated claims that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged,” according to a press release from when the lawsuit was originally filed.
“Jones’s actions subjected the families and survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting to physical confrontations and harassment, death threats and personal attacks on social media,” the release stated.
When the damages were announced on Wednesday, Jones was not there, but he played live video from the court on his Infowars show.
“Hey, folks, don’t go buying big homes,” Jones said on his livestream as the damages were being announced. “This must be what Hell’s like, they just read out the damages. Even though you don’t got the money,” he added.
Jones also said he would be appealing the decision and made a fundraising plea to his supporters.
"Remember, I'm in bankruptcy, we've got two years of appeals, the money you donate does not go to these people, it goes to fighting this fraud and stabilizing this company," Jones said during his livestream on Wednesday. (His company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy in late July.)
This is Jones’s second defamation trial. His first, which occurred in August, saw a jury in Texas award the parents of a 6-year-old child killed at Sandy Hook more than $48 million in damages.
In the August trial, the parents testified to the harassment and threats they had faced as a result of Jones's false claims. Jones also admitted during the trial that the shooting did happen.
Jones now faces one more defamation trial in Texas later this year, which could result in more damages. The lawsuit was filed by the parents of another child killed in the shooting.