Infowars founder Alex Jones was ordered to pay another $473 million to the families of children killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, adding to the $965 million he has already been told to pay.
Jones had asserted for years that the 2012 attack, in which the shooter murdered 26 people, including 20 children, was a hoax meant to help the federal government confiscate citizens’ firearms. The conspiracy theorist must pay a combined $1.44 billion to the victims’ families.
“The record clearly supports the plaintiffs’ argument that the defendants’ conduct was intentional and malicious, and certain to cause harm by virtue of their infrastructure, ability to spread content, and massive audience including the ‘infowarriors,’” Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis wrote in her ruling. “The record also establishes that the defendants repeated the conduct and attacks on the plaintiffs for nearly a decade, including during the trial, wanton, malicious, and heinous conduct that caused harm to the plaintiffs. This depravity, and cruel, persistent course of conduct by the defendants establishes the highest degree of reprehensibility and blameworthiness.”
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer representing the Sandy Hook families, celebrated the decision in an announcement posted to social media. Jones had claimed that the parents of the slaughtered children were crisis actors. “Justice requires that he pay every penny,” he said.
A separate one-page order prohibited Jones from relocating assets out of the country. “With the exception of ordinary living expenses, the defendant Alex Jones is not to transfer, encumber, dispose, or move his assets out of the United States, until further order of the court,” Bellis said.
The latest verdict also follows a ruling from a separate jury in Texas, which ordered Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages, a figure that may be reduced due to state laws capping the size of the penalty. Families of the Sandy Hook victims began taking legal action against Jones, as well as Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars, four years ago.
Prosecutors in the Connecticut lawsuit argued that the sanction was derived from the number of impressions Jones had garnered online for his claims. “You may say that is astronomical. It is,” Mattei told jurors. “It’s exactly what Alex Jones set himself up to do. That’s what he built. He built a lie machine that could push this stuff out. You reap what you sow.”
The families asked Bellis last month to increase the $965 million ruling to $2.75 trillion, since Jones allegedly broke a Connecticut law banning the sale of goods through false statements. The figure was calculated by multiplying the $5,000 maximum penalty under state law by 550 million social media views Jones received in the three years following the shooting.
Infowars filed for bankruptcy earlier this year amid the legal quagmire. Another lawsuit claimed Jones had been hiding money, citing his $62 million in withdrawals from the company over the past three years. According to bankruptcy documents, nine Sandy Hook families requested for a trustee to control Free Speech Systems, which owes $54 million to PQPR Holdings, a firm with ties to Jones and his parents.