Jurors ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Wednesday to pay nearly $1 billion to Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims’ relatives and an FBI agent, who said he turned their loss and trauma into years of torment by promoting the lie that the rampage was a hoax, reports the Associated Press.
Alex Jones ordered to pay $965 million for Sandy Hook lies (Associated Press)
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Excerpt from the Associated Press: The $965 million verdict is the second big judgment against the Infowars host for spreading the myth that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history never happened, and that the grieving families seen in news coverage were actors hired as part of a plot to take away people’s guns. The verdict came in a defamation lawsuit filed by some of the families of 26 people who were killed in the 2012 shooting, plus an FBI agent who was among the first responders. A Texas jury in August awarded nearly $50 million to the parents of another slain child. Robbie Parker, who lost his 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, said outside the Connecticut court that he was proud that "what we were able to accomplish was just to simply tell the truth."
According to NBC News, the nearly $1 billion a Connecticut jury ordered Alex Jones to pay to the families of Sandy Hook victims for calling the mass shooting a hoax is a "historically high" penalty and one the Infowars host and conspiracy theorist will be unlikely to evade, civil litigators said.
"He may be forced to live a subsistence type of life," said Richard Signorelli, a New York attorney and former federal prosecutor. "He’s always going to be watched. He’s always going to be hounded, and he’s not going to, I believe, be able to ultimately escape the ramifications of his wrongful act."
Alex Jones unlikely to escape ‘historically high’ defamation award, legal experts say (NBC News)
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Excerpt from NBC News: The families of eight victims of the 2012 school shooting and an FBI agent who responded to the scene sued Jones for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the state Unfair Trade Practices Act, for telling his followers that the massacre was "fake" and the families were "crisis actors" on multiple platforms for years. In a trial solely to determine damages, because Jones was already found liable by a judge after refusing to hand over critical evidence in discovery, a six-member jury handed down 15 individual awards that ranged from $28.8 million to $120 million, totaling $965 million in compensatory damages. Civil litigators across the country said they were astonished by the staggering sum. "I think it’s the largest defamation verdict in U.S. history, certainly on compensatory damages," said Jesse Gessin, a civil litigator and adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. "I was absolutely absolutely shocked. It’s just an unbelievable verdict."
Jones has said he will fight the verdict on appeal and use the recent bankruptcy of his company, Free Speech Systems LLC, to avoid paying. It is unclear if he and his companies could ever pay the verdicts in full, but attorneys for the plaintiffs have vowed to prevent him from shielding any of his assets, writes Reuters.
"We’re confident we will recover as much of the verdict as we can in the near-term, and in the long-term, this verdict isn’t going anywhere," Chris Mattei, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said.
Alex Jones faces long odds hiding assets after $1 billion Sandy Hook verdict (Reuters)
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Excerpt from Reuters: Infowars' finances are not public, but according to trial testimony the site brought in revenue of at least $165 million between 2016 and 2018. An economist in the Texas case estimated that Jones is personally worth between $135 million and $270 million. Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy in July. The Sandy Hook families have intervened in the case and accused Jones of withdrawing up to $62 million from Free Speech Systems while burdening it with $54 million in "concocted" debt owed to a different company owned by Jones and his parents. Bankruptcy courts have wide discretion to decide which creditors get paid first and are vigilant in cases where companies try to siphon out funds via debt held by shell entities, UConn School of Law professor Minor Myers said. "No bankruptcy judge would allow Alex Jones and his dad to stand in line in front of the plaintiffs."
In a related story, according to the Associated Press, a divided jury spared Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz the death penalty Thursday for killing 17 people at a Parkland high school in 2018, sending him to prison for the rest of his life in a decision that left many families of the victims angered, baffled and in tears.
Parkland school shooter spared from execution for killing 17 (Associated Press)
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Excerpt from the Associated Press: Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff members, and wounding 17 others, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. The jury rejected the death penalty after deliberating for about seven hours over two days. Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote on at least one count. The seven-man, five-woman jury unanimously agreed there were aggravating factors to warrant a possible death sentence, such as agreeing that the murders were “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.” But one or more jurors also found mitigating factors, such as untreated childhood issues. In the end, the jury could not agree that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating ones, so Cruz will get life without parole.
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