Alex Jones Ordered to Pay $965 Million in Defamation Suit


Connecticut jury orders Alex Jones to pay nearly $1 billion to Sandy Hook parents. | Image by REUTERS

Radio-show host Alex Jones lost a defamation suit yesterday in a Connecticut court. He was ordered to pay $965 million in compensatory damages to the families of several Sandy Hook Victims and an FBI agent who was among the first responders on the scene of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. A judge will rule on punitive damages in the case next month.

After the Sandy Hook shooting on December 14, 2012,  Jones took to his popular news show, Infowars, to decry the tragedy as a “giant hoax” orchestrated to strip people of their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Families of Sandy Hook victims claimed their lives were upended by Jones’ false statements. They reported that they were harassed and threatened by people who accused them of being actors and faking the shooting.

The defamation trial in Connecticut was the second defamation suit brought against Jones related to his comments about the Sandy Hook shooting. In August, Jones was ordered to pay $42.5 million in punitive damages and $4.1 million in compensatory damages in a separate lawsuit filed in Texas.

Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, both parents of victims and plaintiffs in the Texas trial, shared their stories. “My life has been threatened,” Heslin testified. “I fear for my life. I fear for my safety and my family’s safety and their life.”

“Jesse was real,” Lewis said in her tearful testimony. “I’m a real mom.”

In response to the emotional testimony of the families, Jones said, “The internet had a lot of questions … [and I] tried to find out what actually happened.”

“Speech is free, but lies you have to pay for,” said a family attorney after the Texas trial.

In response to yesterday’s verdict, late-night TV hosts criticized the Infowars host. “[Alex Jones] tormented these families; he accused them of faking their children’s death,” Jimmy Kimmel told his audience.

Similarly, Stephen Colbert said to his Late Show audience, “You know how, as humans, we have to accept the fact that sometimes bad things happen to good people? Well, by the grace of God, sometimes, bad things happen to Alex Jones, and that’s a good thing.”

Regardless of criticism, Jones claims that the backlash and hefty price tag prove that the state wields power to crush news outlets, journalists, and free speech. The case does appear to touch on the ongoing tension between First Amendment rights and defamation.

“They want us shut down,” said Jones in a livestream from his studio as he watched the court proceedings on TV.

Earlier this year, Jones’ media company declared bankruptcy. After the verdict was announced Wednesday, Jones pleaded with his Infowars followers to donate to his legal defense fund, vowing that none of the money would go to the families in the lawsuit.

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