Hartford, Conn. (AP) — A judge on Thursday ordered InfoWars host Alex Jones and his company to pay an additional $473 million for spreading false conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook school massacre, bringing a total judgment against them in a lawsuit they filed. Victims’ families raised $1.44 billion.
Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis imposed punitive damages on Infoverse Host and Free Speech Systems. Jones repeatedly recounted to his millions of followers the massacre that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers. “Crisis actors” demonstrated to enact more gun control.
“The record clearly supports plaintiffs’ contention that defendants’ conduct was willful and malicious and was certain to harm their infrastructure, ability to disseminate content, and a large audience, including InfoWarriors,” the judge wrote at 45. Page Judgment.
Christopher Matte, an attorney for the Sandy Hook families, said he thinks the award sends a message to conspiracy theorists who profit from lies.
“The court found ‘intentional, malicious … and despicable’ conduct by Mr. Jones and his business entities,” Mattei said in a statement.
On his show Thursday, Jones called the award “ridiculous” and a “joke” and said he had little money to pay damages.
“Well, I’m laughing at that,” he said. “I would love it if you sent me a bill for a billion dollars in the mail. Oh man, we got you. All this for psychological effect. It’s all the Wizard of Oz…when they’re fully aware of the bankruptcy and all the rest of it, it shows what I’ve got and that’s it, and I’ve got nothing.
Relatives of eight victims and an FBI agent testified During the month-long trial, he was threatened and harassed by people who denied the shooting. Strangers appeared in some of their homes and confronted some in public. People hurled abusive comments at him on social media and in emails. And some received death and rape threats.
Six judges ordered Jones to pay $965 million to indemnify 15 plaintiffs for defamation, emotional distress and violations of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Jones has denounced the trial as unfair and an attack on free speech. He said he would appeal against the verdict. He contested the testimony at a similar hearing in Texas — saying he didn’t have the money to pay such huge judgments because he had less than $2 million to his name. Free Speech Systems, meanwhile, is seeking bankruptcy protection.
Jones said Thursday that he only has “a couple hundred thousand dollars” in his savings account.
A message was left for Jones’ attorney, Norm Pattis, seeking comment.
Bellis held Jones and Infoverse’s parent company liable for damages Last year she called for his repeated failure to turn over numerous financial records and other documents to plaintiffs without a hearing. After an unusual “default” verdict, the jury was tasked only with determining the amount of compensatory damages and whether punitive damages were warranted.
Jones claims he turned over thousands of documents and took away his right to present a defense against the default judgment suit.
Punitive damages awarded by the judge were about $323 million for the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs and $150 million for violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In Connecticut, punitive damages for defamation and emotional distress are generally limited to the plaintiffs’ legal fees. Lawyers for the Sandy Hook plaintiffs will receive a third of the $965 million in compensatory damages under the retainer agreement — putting their legal fees at $322 million.
But there is no cap on punitive damages for violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act. The plaintiffs did not ask for a specific amount of punitive damages, but said that under a hypothetical calculation they could be about $2.75 trillion under unfair trade laws.
In a similar trial in Texas in August, Jones was ordered to pay nearly $50 million To the parents of another child killed in the Sandy Hook shooting for calling the massacre a hoax. A forensic economist testified during that trial that Jones and Free Speech Systems had a net worth as high as $270 million.
A third and final trial on Jones’ fraud claims is expected to begin later in the year in Texas. As in Connecticut, Jones is liable for damages without a trial In both Texas cases he failed to turn over many documents to the plaintiffs.
This version corrects the spelling of Judge Bellis’ maiden name to Barbara instead of Barabara.