A Connecticut court will hear opening statements Tuesday to determine how much conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay the families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting for falsely claiming the massacre was a hoax. A Texas jury last month awarded $49.3 million to two parents in a similar case.
In the Connecticut case, 14 family members of Sandy Hook victims sued Jones, founder of the right-wing webcast and radio show Infowars, and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems LLC, in 2018. The plaintiffs say they were targeted by Jones’ supporters after he and other contributors to his Infowars site claimed for years that the shooting was “staged” with crisis actors faking the deaths of their loved ones.
“He urged the audience to ‘investigate,’ knowing his audience would respond by stalking, harassing, and threatening plaintiffs,” the lawsuit against Jones says. The trial in Connecticut state court is scheduled to last four weeks. A judge entered a default judgment in the case in November after Jones failed to comply with court orders.
The Connecticut lawsuit is aimed solely at determining how much Jones and Free Speech Systems should pay for spreading falsehoods about the killing of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones previously claimed the shooting was staged by the US government as a pretext to confiscate weapons. He has since acknowledged that the shooting took place. Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy in July.
This would normally shield the company from lawsuits, but it agreed to face trial in August. A jury in Austin, Texas, where Infowars is based, awarded two Sandy Hook parents $49.3 million in damages after a two-week trial in a similar case last month. That award could be substantially reduced because most of it consists of non-economic damages intended to punish Jones for his conduct.
Texas law caps these damages, and an attorney for Jones has said he will try to lower the verdict to $1.5 million. Attorneys for the Texas parents say the limit does not apply and are asking for the full amount. The gunman who attacked Sandy Hook Elementary, Adam Lanza, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle during the massacre, which ended when he killed himself as police closed in.