Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his company are ordered to pay an extra $473 million to victims’ families and an FBI agent for calling the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax, adding to a nearly $1 billion jury verdict issued last month.
Connecticut Judge Barabara Bellis imposes the punitive damages on the Infowars host and Free Speech Systems. Jones repeatedly told his millions of followers the massacre that killed 20 first graders and six educators was staged by “crisis actors” to enact more gun control.
Eight victims’ relatives and the FBI agent testified during a month-long trial about being threatened and harassed for years by people who deny the shooting happened. Strangers showed up at some of their homes and confronted some of them in public. People hurled abusive comments at them on social media and in emails. And some received death and rape threats.
Six jurors ordered Jones to pay $965 million to compensate the 15 plaintiffs for defamation, infliction of emotional distress and violations of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, which bans deceptive business practices and unfair competition.
Jones has bashed the trial as unfair and an assault on free speech rights. He says he will appeal the verdicts. He also says he doesn’t have the money to pay such huge verdicts, because he has less than $2 million to his name — which contradicted testimony at a similar trial in Texas. Free Speech Systems, meanwhile, is seeking bankruptcy protection.