A jury has ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $965 million in damages to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
After a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012, Jones accused bereaved relatives of being actors who faked the massacre.
Those who testified in tears in state court included the families of five students and three teachers who were killed. FBI agents who were among the first responders were also involved in legal action.
Some of them hugged after the sentencing. Jones was not present, but on his Infowars website the video of the court was played on split screen.
read more: Who is Alex Jones?
In the final arguments in the defamation case, plaintiffs’ attorneys said Jones used lies about the shooting to increase Infowars’ traffic and promote sales of the various products it offers.
Describing the case as a “kangaroo court,” Jones mocked the judge, called the plaintiffs’ lawyers an ambulance chaser and called the case an affront to free speech.
But lawyer Chris Mattei said the families had endured a decade of harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers.
“Each of these families was in grief and Alex Jones put his foot on them,” he told jurors.
The daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung was among the victims, who testified that rape threats had been made to her family.
Bereaved father Mark Baden said conspiracy theorists urinated on the grave of his 7-year-old son Daniel and threatened to dig up the coffin.
Jones’ attorney, Norman Pattis, claimed in closing arguments that the plaintiffs provided little evidence of quantifiable damages.
“It’s not about politics,” Mr Pattis said. “It’s about how much to compensate the plaintiff.”
Jones now admits the shooting did happen.
But he blasted “liberal” critics during the trial and refused to apologize to the family.
In a similar case in August, another jury ruled that Jones and his company must pay Sandy Hook’s parents $49.3 million. The case is taking place in Austin, Texas, where Infowars is based.
Jones also faces a third trial, again in Texas, around the beginning of the year.
It’s unclear how much he can afford. During his trial in August, he said he could not afford a sentence of more than $2 million.
However, one economist who testified in Austin said Jones and his company were worth as much as $270 million.