Sandy Hook Families Win Over $1.4 Billion From Alex Jones With New Ruling

The Infowars conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones must pay the families of eight Sandy Hook shooting victims an additional $473 million in punitive damages for defaming them, a judge in Connecticut ruled on Thursday, bringing the total damages to nearly $1.5 billion.

Last month, a jury in Waterbury, Conn., awarded the families and an F.B.I. agent implicated in Mr. Jones’s false claims $965 million in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded the families punitive damages in the form of lawyers’ fees, to be calculated by the judge. The $473 million awarded on Thursday by Judge Barbara N. Bellis of Connecticut Superior Court represents those damages.

Earlier this year, a judge in Texas ordered Mr. Jones to pay the parents of another Sandy Hook victim $50 million, in the first of three trials to determine the damages Mr. Jones owes.

Judge Bellis also essentially froze Mr. Jones’s personal assets, issuing an order saying that he was “not to transfer, encumber, dispose or move his assets out of the United States until further order of the court.” A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Christopher M. Mattei, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families in the Connecticut case, cited the judge’s finding that Mr. Jones’s “depravity” in spreading lies about the 2012 school shooting and the victims’ families “establishes the highest degree of reprehensibility and blameworthiness.”

“Our hope is that this serves to reinforce the message of this case: Those who profit from lies targeting the innocent will face justice,” Mr. Mattei said in a statement.

He added that the judge’s order restricting Mr. Jones’s assets was “the first step in making sure that Jones personally will pay every penny he has to the families he spent years tormenting.”

For years, Mr. Jones spread the lie that the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 first graders and six educators was a “false flag” operation, planned by the government as a pretext for confiscating Americans’ firearms. He accused the families of being “crisis actors” complicit in the plot, leading to years of online abuse, personal confrontation and death threats against the families from people who believed the conspiracy theory.

In 2018, the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims filed four defamation cases against Mr. Jones, later combined into three. After Jones refused to submit financial records, testimony and documents ordered by the courts, judges in Texas and Connecticut ruled him liable by default, a sweeping victory for the families that set the stages for the damages trials.

The damages trial in Connecticut was the second trial to determine how much Mr. Jones owes the families for the suffering he has caused. In the first trial, in Texas this past summer, Mr. Jones was ordered to pay Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse Lewis died at Sandy Hook, about $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages. A third trial, in the Texas lawsuit filed by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose son Noah Pozner was killed at Sandy Hook, has not yet been scheduled.

Mr. Jones earns revenues of more than $50 million annually by selling diet supplements, survivalist gear and quack cures on his radio and online Infowars show. The Connecticut lawyers demonstrated in court that Mr. Jones was aware of and tracking how his audience and product sales surged when he spread lies about Sandy Hook on his show.

Mr. Jones placed his parent company, Free Speech Systems, into bankruptcy earlier this year. The families are challenging the bankruptcy in a federal court in Houston, saying it is an effort by Mr. Jones to improperly avoid paying the mounting damages against him.

In all likelihood, Mr. Jones does not have the money to pay such vast awards; a forensic economist estimated in August that Mr. Jones’s empire was worth a maximum of $270 million, as he was entering bankruptcy. Mr. Jones claimed that a debt of $54 million — owed to a company he controls — had made him insolvent.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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