Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay at least $965 million in damages to numerous families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting for falsely claiming they were actors who faked the tragedy, a Connecticut jury said on Wednesday.
The verdict, which came after three weeks of testimony in a state court in Waterbury, Connecticut, far outstripped the $49 million Jones was ordered to pay in August by a Texas jury in a similar case brought by two other Sandy Hook parents.
The Connecticut verdict applies to both Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems LLC, the owner of Jones’ Infowars website. FSS filed for bankruptcy in July.
The plaintiffs in the Connecticut case included more than a dozen relatives of 20 children and six staff members who were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Jones claimed for years that the massacre was staged as part of a government plot to take away Americans’ guns.
Jurors said the plaintiffs should also be awarded attorney’s fees, which are set to be determined in November.
During a live broadcast as the verdict was read, Jones vowed to appeal and said his company’s ongoing bankruptcy will protect Infowars in the meantime.
“We’re fighting Goliath,” he said.
Jones’ lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the families, said outside the courthouse that the verdict was “against Alex Jones, his lies and their poisonous spread, and a verdict for truth and for our common humanity.”
Outside the courthouse, Robbie Parker, one of the plaintiffs in the case, thanked the jury for its verdict. “Everybody who took the stand told the truth,” Parker said. “Except for one. 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.”
Jones was found liable in a default judgment last year after he failed to comply with court orders.
During closing arguments last week, Mattei said Jones cashed in for years on lies about the shooting, which drove traffic to his Infowars website and boosted sales of its various products.