Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that the Sandy Hook school shooting hadn't really happened - that parents who'd lost children were actors. Today he paid for that terrible lie. ITV News US Correspondent Robert Moore reports
US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered by a Connecticut jury to pay $965 million (£869 million) to people who suffered from his false claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.
The verdict is the second big judgment against the Infowars host for claiming the massacre was staged. It came in a lawsuit filed by the relatives of eight victims.
An FBI agent who responded to the shooting was also a plaintiff. Jones now believes the shooting was real, but he says he had a right to publicly question whether it happened.
A Texas jury in August ordered Jones to pay $50 million to the parents of another slain child.
The Connecticut trial featured tearful testimony from parents and siblings of the victims, who told about how they were threatened and harassed for years by people who believed the lies told on Jones’ show.
Strangers showed up at their homes to record them. People hurled abusive comments on social media.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people mailed rape threats to her house.
Mark Barden told of how conspiracy theorists had urinated on the grave of his seven-year-old son, Daniel, and threatened to dig up the coffin.
Testifying during the trial, Jones acknowledged he had been wrong about Sandy Hook. The shooting was real, he said. But both in the courtroom and on his show, he was defiant.
He called the proceedings a “kangaroo court,” mocked the judge, called the plaintiffs’ lawyer an ambulance chaser and labelled the case an affront to free speech rights. He claimed it was a conspiracy by Democrats and the media to silence him and put him out of business.
“I’ve already 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 December 14, 2012. The defamation 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 killing to build his audience and make millions of dollars.
Experts testified that Jones’ audience swelled when he made Sandy Hook a topic on the show, as did his revenue from product sales.
In both the Texas lawsuit and the one in Connecticut, judges found the company liable for damages by default after Jones failed to cooperate with court rules on sharing evidence, including failing to turn over records that might have showed whether Infowars had profited from knowingly spreading misinformation about mass killings.
Because he was already found liable, Jones was barred from mentioning free speech rights 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 is unclear how much of the verdicts Jones can afford to pay. During the trial in Texas, he testified he couldn’t afford any judgment over $2 million.
Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy protection. But an economist testified in the Texas proceeding that Jones and his company were worth as much as $270 million.
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