A Connecticut jury has ordered Infowars host Alex Jones to pay $964.2 million for defaming the families of eight mass shooting victims and an FBI agent in his second penalty this year. The decision came after a tumultuous trial that saw Jones declare he was “done saying I’m sorry” for spreading false claims about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The damages are split between 15 plaintiffs and range between $120 million and $28.8 million apiece.
Jones was sued for defamation by a group of families who had relatives killed at Sandy Hook. As with a previous case in Jones’ home state of Texas, Jones lost the case by default for refusing to cooperate, so the trial determined the damages he owed. A third trial is set to begin in Texas late this year.
During testimony, family members described enduring years of harassment after Infowars repeatedly aired stories claiming the families were actors recruited to help fake the shooting. “It was almost like I knew when Alex Jones said something, because we would get a huge wave of stuff,” said Robbie Parker, whose daughter Emilie was killed at Sandy Hook. Jones has since said he believes the attack was real — but, the families’ lawyers argued, only after making millions of dollars profiting from lies about it.
Jones drew repeated condemnations from Judge Barbara Bellis during the trial, including threats to hold him in contempt of court. Among other things, he held an unsanctioned press conference outside the courthouse, potentially within hearing range of jurors who had been instructed not to seek information about the case outside the courtroom. He indicated he would appeal after the verdict, according to Vice reporter Anna Merlan.
Unlike an earlier case in Texas — where a jury handed down a $45.2 million fine that will likely be reduced — Connecticut does not limit the damages in defamation cases, which will create a substantial burden for Jones. Infowars parent company Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy ahead of the trial, a move families say was meant to shield millions of dollars from the court system.