A Waterbury jury unanimously determined Wednesday that Alex Jones will have to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to Sandy Hook families, an astounding verdict that now places another hefty financial burden on the Infowars owner who called America’s second-deadliest school shooting a hoax.
The decision instructing Jones to pay at least $965 million marked the second time that he was ordered to pay millions in compensatory damages to family members of the 26 people, mostly children, massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. An FBI agent who responded to the shooting and who was subsequently targeted by conspiracy theorists was also included in the verdict. Judge Barbara Bellis, who presided over the trial, is expected to consider punitive damages at a later date. In August a Texas jury directed Jones to pay more than $45 million for the harm caused by his baseless lies, which also included the far-right conspiracy theorist saying the 2012 mass shooting was “as phony as a $3 bill,” according to The New York Times.
Families have testified in both trials that his actions led them to experience online abuse, death threats and emotional trauma. A third damages trial will take place in the coming months.
“I let my voice be taken away from me and my power be taken away from me at the expense of my daughter and the expense of my family,” said Robbie Parker, in a news conference after the verdict. Parker’s daughter, Emilie, was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.
“It shouldn’t be this hard, and it shouldn’t be this scary,” he continued. “I shouldn’t have to worry about what my daughters are going to go through when I tell them that it’s best if they just tell the truth. Because that’s all we did: Every day in that courtroom we got up on the stand, and we told the truth.”
Jones wasn’t present in the courtroom Wednesday but indicated during a livestream that he would appeal the verdict. His lawyer echoed that sentiment. Under Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, which Jones violated, there is no limit on damage amounts — but he and his legal team could appeal the decision on other grounds, according to Reuters.
“Do these people actually think they’re getting any of this money?” Jones said on the livestream.
The Connecticut trial featured testimonies from family members about how Jones’ actions worsened the grief that stemmed from the deaths of 20 children and six school staff. The FBI agent, William Aldenberg, testified about the emotional toll of witnessing blood and dead bodies. The families’ attorneys asked for the jury to award them $550 million.
Jones was found liable by default after refusing to turn over financial documents and records requested by the court. When he took the stand, he was grilled by opposing lawyers about his web show. He went on defense outside the courtroom — declaring that he was done apologizing for his actions, that his words about the mass shooting were taken out of context and that the trial was a “kangaroo court.” His lawyers pleaded for the jury to avoid awarding excessive damages based on emotions.
Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, a move that opposing attorneys said Jones made to avoid paying millions to the families.
The prominent radio host has made a fortune spewing unfounded conspiracies to his audience. During the Texas trial, an economist testified that Jones’ net worth ranged anywhere from $135 million to $270 million.
Considered one of the most influential right-wing conspiracy theorists in the country, Jones rose to national prominence by “promoting paranoid allegations against the U.S. government and an alleged shadowy, power-hungry New World Order,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. He has undermined the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, deemed the Boston Marathon bombing a staged event and called 9/11 an inside job. He shouted unfounded voter fraud claims about the 2020 election. He was subpoenaed last year by the Jan. 6 insurrection committee.
In a statement late Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont applauded the Waterbury jury’s verdict.
“Nobody should ever have to endure the kind of harassment and persecution that Alex Jones caused, especially the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” he said in the statement. “A jury in Connecticut today sent a strong message that what he did to these families and a first responder was disgraceful.”
Families were visibly emotional as they listened to the verdict. Some of them used tissues to wipe tears from their eyes. Others sat on the courtroom’s hard wooden bench with their heads bowed.
Standing outside of the courtroom, a choked-up Parker thanked the jury for their efforts during the trial and pleaded for supporters of Jones to look in the mirror.
“Everybody that told the truth took the stand except for one,” Parker said, “the one who proclaims that that’s what he does. But while the truth was being said in the courtroom, he was standing right here lying.”