Alex Jones ordered to pay additional $473m to Sandy Hook families

Jones now owes families more than $1.4bn for spreading false claims that the deadly 2012 US school shooting was a hoax.

Alex Jones appears at Capitol Hill in Washington DC
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has refused to apologise for his role spreading conspiracy theories about children killed in a 2012 school shooting [File: J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

A judge in the United States has ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay an additional $473m to the families of victims killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting, which Jones for years falsely claimed was a hoax.

Jones is now on the hook for more than $1.4bn in damages in two Sandy Hook defamation cases that went to trial this year.

The Infowars host and his media company, Free Speech Systems, engaged in “attacks on the plaintiffs for nearly a decade”, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis said on Thursday as she ordered the $473m penalty.

“This depravity and cruel, persistent course of conduct by the defendants establishes the highest degree of reprehensibility and blameworthiness,” she added.

The decision comes about a month after a Connecticut jury ordered Jones to pay $965m in damages to the loved ones of victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, one of the deadliest school shootings in the US.

The families have said their lives were upended by years of abuse and even death threats from Jones’s followers, piling grief onto them as they struggled to cope with the death of their loved ones.

Jones repeatedly told his audience that the 20 children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook were “crisis actors”.

In a statement, Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the families, said the judge’s decision on Thursday “serves to reinforce the message of this case: Those who profit from lies targeting the innocent will face justice”.

Mattei added on Twitter that justice requires Jones to “pay every penny”.

Jones on Thursday called the judge’s award “ridiculous” and a “joke” and said he has little money to pay the damages. “Well, of course, I’m laughing at it,” he said on his show.

“It’d be like if you sent me a bill for a billion dollars in the mail. Oh man, we got you. It’s all for psychological effect. It’s all the Wizard of Oz … when they know full well the bankruptcy going on and all the rest of it, that it’ll show what I’ve got and that’s it, and I have almost nothing.”

His lawyer, Norm Pattis, also said in a statement that “the verdict was tragedy, this latest ruling is farce. It makes our work in appeal that much easier”.

Pattis has argued in court filings that the verdict is excessive and should be reduced. He is also seeking a new trial over what he says were unfair pretrial rulings.

While Jones previously also lashed out against the trials as biased assaults on free speech, he has acknowledged that the shooting took place.

But he refused to apologise to the families during testimony in the Connecticut trial that concluded last month with the $965m penalty.

That trial included emotional testimony from families about the years of distress and abuse they had endured. “Every single one of these families [was] drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them,” Mattei told jurors at that time.

Jones was also ordered to pay about $50m in a similar case overseen by a Texas jury in August.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies