WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The jury has determined conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should 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 was a hoax.
Twenty children and six adults died in the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. The defamation trial was held at a courthouse in Waterbury, about 20 miles from Newtown, where the shooting took place.
The lawsuit accused Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using the mass shooting to build his audience and make millions of dollars.
The trial featured tearful testimony from parents and siblings of the victims, who told about how they were threatened and harassed for years by people who believed the lies told on Jones’ show.
The trial began on Sept. 13 and the jury began to deliberate on Oct. 6. On the third full day of deliberations, the six-person jury reached a verdict.
What the jury decided
In November 2021, the judge found Jones and Free Speech Systems liable for damages by default after Jones failed to cooperate with court rules on sharing evidence.
The jury was instructed to arrive at two compensatory damages amounts per plaintiff: one sum for defamation damages and another for emotional distress damages. Jurors also decided whether Jones should pay punitive damages. The judge will decide the amounts later.
Here is the breakdown of what the jury decided each plaintiff should receive in total compensatory damages:
- Robert “Robbie” Parker, father of 6-year-old Emilie Parker: $120 million
- William Aldenberg, FBI agent and first responder: $90 million
- Ian Hockley, father of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley: $81.6 million
- Erica Lafferty, daughter of school principal Dawn Hochsprung: $76 million
- Nicole Hockley, mother of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley: $73.6 million
- Jillian Soto-Marino, sister of teacher Victoria Soto: $68.8 million
- Carlee Soto-Parisi, sister of teacher Victoria Soto: $66 million
- 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
- Donna Soto, mother of teacher Victoria Soto: $48 million
- William Sherlach, husband of 56-year-old school psychologist Mary Sherlach: $36 million
- Jacqueline Barden, mother of 7-year-old Daniel Barden: $28.8 million
Reaction to the jury’s decision
Robbie Parker, who lost his 6-year-old daughter, said outside the Connecticut court that he was proud that “we were able to accomplish this, just to simply tell the truth.”
“And it shouldn’t be this hard, and it shouldn’t be this scary,” he added, his voice breaking.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people mailed rape threats to her house.
“I wish that after today, I can just be a daughter grieving my mother and stop worrying about the conspiracy theorists,” Lafferty said outside court. But she predicted that Jones’ “hate, lies, and conspiracy theories will follow both me and my family through the rest of our days.”
To plaintiff William Sherlach, 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 felt “gratitude” toward the jury “for hearing us” and listening.
Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the families of Sandy Hook victims, praised the “historic verdict.”
“For over a month in this courthouse, this jury bore witness to Alex Jones’ 10-year attack on the families standing behind me. An attack that made him very rich, an attack that exploited the fears and resentments of his audience, an attack that targeted these families with the lie that they were frauds,” Mattei said.
Norm Pattis, the defense attorney for Jones, said he intends to appeal the jury’s decision.
“We disagree with the basis of the default, we disagree with the court’s evidentiary rulings,” Pattis said. “In more than 200 trials in the course of my career, I have never seen a trial like this.”
It is unclear how much of the verdicts Jones can afford to pay.
In April, a Texas jury awarded Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the parents of Jesse Lewis, nearly $50 million in damages.
During the trial in Texas, he testified he couldn’t afford any judgment over $2 million. Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Jones now faces a third trial, in Texas around the end of the year, in a lawsuit filed by the parents of another child killed in the shooting.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.