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Jury awards nearly $1 billion to Sandy Hook families in Alex Jones case

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Our live coverage has ended. Read more about the verdict in the posts below.
6:23 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

Analysis: Alex Jones faces a reckoning, but the style of politics he popularized is here to stay

Alex Jones leaves the courthouse in Waterbury, Connecticut on September 22. (Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters)

Alex Jones’ day of reckoning has arrived.

A jury in Connecticut decided that the right-wing conspiracy theorist should pay eight families of Sandy Hook shooting victims and a first responder a staggering $965 million.
The decision comes shortly after a trial in Texas where a jury found that the Infowars founder should pay a separate pair of Sandy Hook parents who sued him in the Lone Star state nearly $50 million.

In total, the lies told by Jones about the Sandy Hook shooting have so far cost him more than $1 billion.

With its punishing awards, the juries’ decisions could shrink or even doom Jones’ Infowars media empire, which has been at the center of major conspiracy theories dating back to former President George W. Bush’s administration and was embraced by President Donald Trump.

The reckoning for Jones comes at a pivotal moment in American society, where lies and conspiracy theories have flourished in recent years, often enriching and empowering those who peddle them to the public.

Jones has been an avatar for such behavior. He amassed both great influence and wealth by poisoning the online information well, writing a playbook that has been employed and executed throughout the years by others seeking wealth, fame, and political power.

While Jones may face a reckoning, nearly a decade after his heinous lie about the Sandy Hook shooting, the corrosive blueprint that catapulted him to fame and fortune on the political right is here to stay.

It is impossible to unwind.

To read more, click here:

6:04 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

The jury awarded nearly $1 billion to Sandy Hook families — but the legal process isn't over yet

William Sherlach, left, hugs attorney Josh Koskoff while Nicole Hockley hugs attorney Chris Mattei following the jury verdict on Wednesday. (Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media/AP/Pool)

A Connecticut jury decided far-right talk show host Alex Jones should pay eight families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims and one first responder $965 million in compensatory damages.

The decision was read in court on Wednesday, but the legal process is not over yet.

The next step is for Judge Barbara Bellis to consider punitive damages, according to Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Wednesday's decision from the jury was for compensatory damages — meant to compensate the plaintiffs for what they lost. Punitive damages are to punish the defendant for what they did wrong.

In Connecticut, punitive damages are capped at attorneys' fees and litigation costs, according to CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. The judge will need to decide, first, if they should be awarded and for how much.

Plaintiff Francine Wheeler wipes away tears on Wednesday. (Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media/AP/ Pool)
It's also unclear when or how much of the money the plaintiffs will ultimately see. Jones has said that he will appeal the decision and during his Wednesday broadcast said that there “ain’t no money” to pay the massive figure the jury awarded the plaintiffs.

Jones has also attacked the judicial process, even acknowledging in court that he had referred to the proceedings as those of a “kangaroo court” and called the judge a “tyrant.”

Jones' other legal trouble: The decision in Connecticut comes two months after a jury in Texas determined that Jones and his company should award two Sandy Hook parents who sued in that state nearly $50 million. Later this month, the judge in that case will consider whether to reduce the punitive damages awarded under Texas law.

Once the process of punitive damages is concluded in Connecticut, Mattei said they are heading to Texas, regardless of whether Jones makes an appeal.

"We'll be active down in Texas in an action we brought to track any fraudulent transfer of assets he's made, and in bankruptcy court where we are now very significant creditors of Alex Jones and Free Speech Systems, his business," Mattei said on Wednesday.

CNN's Oliver Darcy contributed to this report
5:14 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

Daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal: "This is a moment years in the making"


Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed during the school shooting, told reporters Wednesday that the verdict against Alex Jones is a moment "years in the making."

Lafferty recounted how difficult it was for her and her family to deal with the threats fueled by the conspiracy theories led by Jones.

"As I was upstairs testifying about the rape threats that were sent to me, Alex Jones was standing right here holding a press conference. After almost a decade of threats and messages from conspiracy theorists led by Jones, this is a moment years in the making," she said.

Lafferty went on to say how she wished she could tell call her mother to tell her about the verdict and the years leading up to it.

"And in this big moment, like in every big moment, since the shooting, I wish I could just call my mom and tell her about it. I would tell her about the horror of watching Alex Jones hold court with the press outside, right here. About the disappointment of so many news outlets who've known us since 12-14 run his words unfiltered. The heartbreak of reliving the shooting as so many families shared stories of their slain loved ones. But I would also like to tell her about the bright spots. News stations, like NBC Connecticut, refused to give a dangerous conspiracy theorist a platform throughout this trial, and I thank them. The jury bravely bore witness to our pain, sitting through hours upon hours of testimony that will never leave their minds," she said.

Lafferty then thanked the people in her life who were by my side throughout this trial... You guys were my guideposts and my shining lights throughout all of this and I cannot thank you enough for your compassion, extreme expertise, and your friendship. I wish I could tell ,my mom about all of this. I wish I could tell her about so many things that can happen, that have happened since she was murdered. Mostly that I'll never stop missing her."

She added that while she hopes to put this chapter of her life behind her, she and her family are aware of the stain Jones' actions have left on their lives.

"I wish that after today, I could just be a daughter grieving her mother and stop worrying about conspiracy theorists sending me threats or worse. But I know that this is not the end of Alex Jones in my life. I know that his hates, his hate, lies and conspiracy theories will follow both me and my family through the rest of our days. But I'm also hopeful for what happened here today. That it may save other families from high-profile tragedies from the cycle of abuse and re-traumatization that we have all been put through as we simply tried to survive the hardest days, weeks, and years of our lives," Lafferty said.

She continued, "I'm incredibly proud and thankful for the message that was sent here today. The truth matters. And those who profit off of other people's pain and trauma will pay for what they have done. There will be more Alex Joneses in this world, but what they learned here today is that they absolutely will be held accountable."
5:05 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

Plaintiff thanks attorneys for giving him strength "to stand up to what had been happening to me for so long"


Robbie Parker, the father of 6-year-old Emilie Parker who was killed during the Sandy Hook shooting, said he was proud to stand among his fellow plaintiffs who got on the stand and told the truth.

"Everybody that took the stand told the truth, except for one. The one who proclaims that that's what he does," Parker said, referring to Alex Jones.

He credited his lawyers with helping to give him "the strength to finally find my voice and to fight and to stand up to what had been happening to me for so long."

Speaking to the media after the verdict, Parker continued: "I let my voice be taken away from me and my power be taken away from me. At the expense of my daughter and at the expense of my family. So I have to thank them for helping me get the strength. And the families that I've been associated with for 10 years through this tragedy are the most beautiful people you'll ever encounter, and their children and their moms and their wives are the most beautiful people you could ever get to know."

"All I can really say is that I'm just proud that what we were able to accomplish is just to simply tell the truth and it shouldn't be this hard, and it shouldn't be this scary."

Parker thanked the jury, not only because of the verdict, "but for what they had to endure, what they had to listen to."

The jury awarded Parker $120,000,000 in compensatory damages in the case. 

Some background: In emotional testimony, Parker recounted the violent threats and harassment he and his family have suffered in the years after Jones called him a crisis actor.

The day after Emilie was murdered in the mass shooting, Parker gave a statement to the press. Hours later, Jones was on his InfoWars show describing Parker as a crisis actor to his audience of millions.

Later that night, unable to sleep, Parker said he saw the start of a deluge of hateful messages about the press conference on the Facebook memorial page for Emilie. Parker said he removed Emilie’s Facebook memorial page weeks after the shooting because the harassment was too much to control.

“I felt like I couldn’t protect Emilie’s name, or her memory anymore so I had to get rid of it,” Parker said through tears.

4:43 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

"Good does prevail": Mother of shooting victim thanks jury for "sending the right message"


Nicole Hockley, the mother of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, said the decision at the end of this trial reinforced her belief that "good does prevail."

Standing outside the courthouse following the jury's decision to award families nearly $1 billion in damages, Hockley said she has "always believed in the goodness of people."

After the shooting, she said she tried to engage with followers of Alex Jones — who was telling his audience that Hockley, among other families, were actors and the tragedy was not real. She said she was "looking for the good," but didn't find it.

Hockley said she gave up trying to engage, until she decided to fight.

She said she felt "gratitude" toward the jury "for hearing us" and listening.

“This is sending the right message that people are good and that good does prevail," she added. “Thank you for restoring my faith in people like that”
4:49 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

Legal analysis: Size of the award shows jury was punishing Jones for his lies about Sandy Hook

The verdict in the Connecticut defamation case against right-wing talk show host Alex Jones sends a message that you can't lie and intentionally inflict emotional distress on people, former prosecutor Mark Eiglarsh said Wednesday.

The jury awarded Sandy Hook family members nearly $1 billion in damages.

"It tells us that while there are limitations to our free speech, you cannot lie. You cannot go way over the line and say lies about someone and inflict emotional distress upon people. They are punishing him," Eiglarsh told CNN's John Berman. "This wasn't just: ‘OK, a couple of million here.’ They are sending a message that while we all enjoy, under the First Amendment, wide latitude to speak freely, you can't lie. You can't intentionally inflict emotional distress on people. Through that verdict, they are speaking very loudly.”

CNN legal analyst Areva Martin echoed the sentiments, stating that while "there is no amount of money that can make these families whole" the verdict is a means of punishing Jones.

"The kind of pain and suffering that they have experienced because of the vicious lies and the vile statements that Alex Jones has made can’t make these families whole. But what we have in our civil system, you know, are money damages, and I hope that the families, the lawyers – obviously very skilled attorneys – will be able to pierce any veil that Alex Jones or his company has tried to put up to prevent these families from collecting some of this money," Martin said.

And while it was doubtful that Jones had 900 million dollars squirreled away, it also was clear that he wasn't broke, she said.

Martin added: "I hope that these families – if they don’t collect a dime — that they put him out of business and they prevent him from ever doing this to any other family or group of families who have experienced the kind of pain that these families have experienced."

5:06 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

Attorney for Sandy Hook families praises "historic verdict"

(Bryan Woolston/AP)

Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the families of Sandy Hook victims, praised the “historic verdict” outside of court Wednesday afternoon.

He said these families took a stand to affirm that the lives of their children were real and were not "cheap props" to be used by Alex Jones to make money. While Jones initially lied about the 2012 shooting, he later acknowledged that the massacre had occurred as he faced multiple lawsuits. 

"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.

“A verdict against Alex Jones’ lies and their poisonous spread and a verdict for truth and for our common humanity," he added.

He said courage of the families has been an inspiration, adding that the "jury's verdict is a testament to that courage." He thanked them for their commitment and compassion.

CNN's Rob Frehse contributed to this report
4:35 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

Infowars' fate in the balance after jury awards Sandy Hook families damages

With its punishing award, the jury's decision could shrink or even doom Alex Jones’ Infowars media empire, a key member of the right-wing media universe.

Earlier today, a Connecticut jury awarded nearly $1 billion in damages to Sandy Hook families in the defamation case brought against Jones over his lies about the 2012 elementary school massacre.

Infowars has been at the center of major conspiracy theories dating back to former President George W. Bush’s administration and was embraced by President Donald Trump. 

4:30 p.m. ET, October 12, 2022

Alex Jones says there "ain't no money" to pay the nearly $1 billion the jury awarded the plaintiffs

Alex Jones, who was streaming live when the jury’s decision was read in court, mocked the decision on his Infowars show and used it to fundraise.

Jones has said he will appeal the decision and during his Wednesday broadcast said that there “ain’t no money” to pay the massive figure the jury awarded the plaintiffs.

It’s unclear when or how much of the money the plaintiffs will ultimately see.

In criticizing the verdict, Jones’s attorney Norm Pattis added outside court that the families have been “used for political purposes.”

"My heart goes out to the families, we live in divided times. They’ve been weaponized and used for political purposes in this country, in my view, and today is a very, very, very dark day for freedom of speech.”