WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — A jury has ruled that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay a total of $965 million to the relatives of eight victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and an FBI agent for spreading the lie that the 2012 shooting. fraud.
Twenty children and six adults died in the shooting on December 14, 2012. The defamation trial was held in a court in Waterbury, about 20 miles from Newtown, where the shooting took place.
The lawsuit accuses Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using the mass shooting to build its audience and make millions of dollars.
The trial began on September 13, and the jury began deliberating on October 6. On the third full day of deliberations, the six-judge jury reached a verdict.
What did the jury decide?
In November 2021, the judge found Jones and Free Speech Systems liable for default damages after Jones failed to cooperate with court rules on sharing evidence.
The jury was instructed to arrive at two compensatory damages amounts for each plaintiff: one amount for defamation damages and another for emotional distress damages. Jurors also decided whether Jones should pay punitive damages. The judge will determine the amounts later.
Here’s a breakdown of what the jury decided each plaintiff should receive in general damages:
Robert “Robbie” Parkerfather of 6-year-old Emily Parker: 120 million dollars
William Aldenberg, FBI Agent and First Responder: 90 million dollars
Ian Hockley, father of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley: $81.6 million
Erica Lafferty, daughter of school principal Dawn Hochsprung: 76 million dollars
Nicole Hockley, mother of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley: $73.6 million
Jillian Soto-Marino, sister of teacher Victoria Soto: $68.8 million
Carly Soto-Parisi, sister of teacher Victoria Soto: 66 million dollars
Mark Barden, father of 7-year-old Daniel Barden: $57.6 million
Carlos Matthew Soto, brother of teacher Victoria Soto: $57.6 million
David Wheeler, father of 6-year-old Ben Wheeler: $55 million
Francine Wheeler, mother of 6-year-old Ben Wheeler: $54 million
Jennifer Hensel, for the estate of Jeremy Richman and the father who died by suicide of 6-year-old Avielle Richman: 52 million dollars
Donna Soto, mother of teacher Victoria Soto: 48 million dollars
William Scherlachhusband of 56-year-old school psychologist Mary Scherlach: $36 million
Jacqueline Barden, mother of 7-year-old Daniel Barden: 28.8 dollarsmillion
Reaction to the jury’s decision
Robbie Parker, who lost his 6-year-old daughter, told a Connecticut court he was proud that “we were able to pull this off, just to tell the truth.”
“And it shouldn’t be that hard and it shouldn’t be that scary,” he added in a broken voice.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people sent rape threats to her home.
“I wish after today I could just be a daughter grieving her mother and stop worrying about conspiracy theorists,” Lafferty told the court. But she predicted that Jones’ “hatred, lies and conspiracy theories will follow me and my family for the rest of our days.”
For plaintiff William Scherlach, who lost his wife in the shooting, the verdict “shows that the Internet is not the wild, wild west and that your actions have consequences.”
Nicole Hockley, the mother of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley, said she was “grateful” to the jury “for listening to us” and listening.
“It sends the right message that people are good and that good prevails,” she added. “Thank you for restoring my faith in such people”
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the families of Sandy Hook victims, praised the “historic verdict.”
“For over a month in this courthouse, this jury has witnessed Alex Jones’ 10-year attack on the families who stand behind me. An attack that made him very rich, an attack that exploited the fears and discontent of his audience, an attack that targeted these families with the lie that they were frauds,” Mattei said.
Norm Pattis, Jones’ defense attorney, said he plans to appeal the jury’s decision.
“We disagree with the basis of the default, we disagree with the court’s rulings on the evidence,” Pattis said. “In more than 200 trials over the course of my career, I’ve never seen a trial like this.”
It’s unclear how much of the judgment Jones can afford to pay.
In April, awarded by a Texas jury Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, parents of Jesse Lewis, nearly $50 million in damages.
During the trial in Texas, he testified that he could not afford a judgment of more than $2 million. Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Jones now faces a third trial in Texas later this year in a lawsuit filed by the parents of another child killed in the shooting.