Oct 12 (Reuters) – Right-wing activist Alex Jones must pay $965 million in damages to several families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting for falsely claiming to be actors who faked the accident, a Connecticut judge said Wednesday. .
The verdict, which came after three weeks of testimony in federal court in Waterbury, Connecticut, was a far cry from the $49 million that Jones was ordered to pay in August by a judge. of Texas in a similar case brought by two other Sandy Hook parents.
The Connecticut ruling affects 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 are more than a dozen relatives of the 20 children and six staff members who were shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Jones said of the year the assassination was carried out as part of the government’s plan to take over. American guns.
Judges said the plaintiffs should also be awarded attorneys’ fees, which will be decided in November.
During a live broadcast when the decision was announced, Jones vowed to appeal and said his company’s immediate bankruptcy would protect Infowars this time.
“We are fighting Goliath,” he said.
Jones’ attorney 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 toxic spread, and a verdict for truth and our common humanity.”
Outside the courthouse, Robbie Parker, one of the plaintiffs in the case, praised the judge’s decision. “Everyone who took the stand told the truth,” Parker said. “Except for one. The man who says that’s what he did. But when the truth was told in the courtroom, he’s standing here, lying.”
Jones was found not guilty in a default judgment last year after failing to comply with court orders.
During closing arguments last week, Mattei said Jones spent years spreading lies about the shooting, which he ran on his Infowars website and celebrated the sale of its various products.
Infowars’ finances are not public, but according to test reports the site brought in $165 million in revenue between 2016 and 2018. An economist for the Texas case said Jones cost between $135 million and $270 million.
FSS’s bankruptcy will limit the amount of money available to the Sandy Hook families, but they will seek additional assets from Jones if a judge finds his company intentionally defrauded him, Brian said. Kabateck, attorney for the plaintiffs was not involved in this case.
“The situation is very bad, and this is the kind of thing that can take you beyond the limits of bankruptcy,” Kabateck told Reuters.
Jones has not filed for bankruptcy but the same principle would apply if he did, Kabateck said.
The families faced a decades-long battle against harassment and death threats from Jones’ fans, Mattei said.
“All of these families are drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot on top of them,” Mattei told jurors.
Jones’ attorney argued in closing arguments that the plaintiffs presented little evidence of quantifiable losses. Attorney Norman Pattis urged jurors to ignore the politics involved in the case.
“This is not a case of politics,” Pattis said. “Plaintiffs’ compensation.”
Douglas E. Mirell, an attorney and criminal justice expert who was not involved in the case, said the landmark ruling provided a clear message of “accusation” from the jury.
“His refusal to accept the lies and falsehoods that he has published so many times over so many years has stuck with him,” Mirell said of Jones.
The trial was marked by weeks of emotional testimony from the families, who filled the gallery each day and turned to tell how Jones’ lies about Sandy Hook raised the they are sad. An FBI agent who responded to the shooting is also a plaintiff in the case.
Jones, who has admitted to the shooting, also testified that the trial was thrown into chaos as he contradicted his “liberal” supporters and failed to apologize to the families. .
In August, another judge found that Jones and his company must pay $49.3 million to Sandy Hook parents in a similar case in Austin, Texas, where Jones’ website is headquartered. ‘ Infowars ideology.
Jones’ attorneys have said they hope to have most of the charges in the Texas case dismissed before a judge approves them, saying they are excessive under federal law.
Connecticut does not impose a cap on damages, although Jones could appeal the decision on other legal grounds.
Mattei said the families will go to a court that has to enforce the decision “for a long time, because that’s what justice is all about.”
Reporting by Jack Queen in New York, Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del., and Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington Editing by Noeleen Walder, Mark Porter and Matthew Lewis.
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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, DC, covers legal issues related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at email@example.com.