The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay $965 million to the families of eight Sandy Hook shooting victims and an FBI agent who responded to the attack for the suffering he caused them by spreading lies on his platforms about the 2012 massacre, a Connecticut jury found on Wednesday.
Jones faced liability for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the state Unfair Trade Practices Act, for creating a fake narrative that the mass shooting was a hoax. The families claimed Jones profited off the lies while they were harassed and abused by those who believed him.
The jury made 15 individual awards that ranged from $28.8 million to $120 million. The families and agent also received separate punitive damages.
Several family members of the victims wept as they heard the jury’s decision in the courtroom. Jones, who was not in court, appeared on his online show as the jury’s decision was read, laughing and mocking the amounts being awarded.
Jones’ lawyer has vowed to appeal the decision.
For years, Jones peddled false stories on his radio and online show that one of the deadliest school shootings in the United States was “synthetic” and a “false flag,” and that the families of the victims were “crisis actors.”
Twenty children and six educators were killed after a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire on Dec. 14, 2012. The trial took place in Waterbury, about 20 miles from Newtown.
Jones had already been found liable by a judge after refusing to hand over critical evidence before the trial began, and this six-member jury was only asked to decide how much Jones should pay. This is the second trial related to his Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. In August, a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse was killed in the massacre.
During closing arguments, Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the families and agent, suggested that Jones should be ordered to pay at least $550 million, saying that the host’s Sandy Hook content got an estimated 550 million views from 2012 to 2018.
“Their lives were shattered by December 14, 2012, but Alex Jones has made it so they can’t escape,” Mattei told the jury. “Every single one of these families were drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them.”
Jones’ attorney asked for a more moderate verdict, telling jurors to focus on the monetary harm caused to the families.
During the four-week trial, the jury heard emotional testimony from several parents of victims about enduring harassment, death and rape threats as a result of Jones’ lies.
Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed, testified that she keeps knives and a baseball bat by her bed because she fears being attacked, and has taken out a large insurance policy in the event she is killed, she said.
“I got sent pictures of dead kids, because I was told that as a crisis actor, I didn’t really know what a dead kid looked like, so this is what it should look like,” she said.
Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel, said Jones’ followers verbally attacked him and even chased him while screaming that he was a liar. He also testified that his son’s grave was vandalized.
“This is so sacrosanct and hallowed a place for my family and to hear that people were desecrating it and urinating on it and threatening to dig it up, I don’t know how to articulate to you what that feels like,” Barden told the jury. “But that’s where we are.”
The father at the center of most of Jones’ vitriol said he felt he had “failed” his daughter Emilie.
“I felt like I couldn’t protect Emilie’s name, or her memory anymore,” Robbie Parker said while sobbing.
Parker was awarded the largest amount at $120 million in compensatory damages.
Jones also took the stand, resulting in a heated exchange with Chris Mattei, who represented the families.
In an angry outburst, Jones said that “he’s done being sorry.”
“Is this a struggle session? Are we in China?” he exclaimed during his testimony after being reminded of those who were murdered and shown a clip of Parker at a news conference the day after the attack.
“I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times, and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” Jones said.
A defiant Jones said he believed Sandy Hook was a hoax when he spread his lies. “I legitimately thought it might have been staged and I stand by that. I don’t apologize for it.”