According to a new report from the Associated Press, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his main company Free Speech Systems have been ordered to pay an additional hundreds of millions of dollars in damages stemming from lies Jones helped spread about the reality of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Jones helped spread the ludicrous conspiracy theory that the shooting wasn’t real. The idea was that the incident was a false flag operation designed to help further the push for gun control, and in the years since the (very real) violence struck Newtown, Connecticut, family members of some of those lost in the shooting have faced repeated and serious threats to their safety. In an earlier Texas trial covering similar issues, a mother of someone who died in the shooting discussed an incident in which a stranger showed up at a family home on Christmas and started taking pictures. The father of the same victim also discussed gunfire that hit his residence and car. In the more recently concluded Connecticut proceedings, a father of another of the victims discussed conspiracy theorists perpetrating acts like urinating on his late son’s grave and proposing digging it up.
These people have been essentially terrorized for years over Jones’s lies. “This is so sacrosanct and hallowed a place for my family and to hear that people were desecrating it and urinating on it and threatening to dig it up, I don’t know how to articulate to you what that feels like,” parent Mark Barden said during trial in Connecticut. “But that’s where we are.”
The Texas and Connecticut trials only dealt with the amount of financial damages to impose on Jones for his statements. He was previously found liable by default after failing to sufficiently comply with demands in the discovery period during which parties to a case can pursue relevant information. The newly enacted hundreds of millions in financial penalties include $473 million in punitive damages decided on by Judge Barbara Bellis after the jury in the Connecticut case already ordered that Jones pay nearly a billion dollars in compensatory damages, which is a distinct category of financial penalties. Besides claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, the Connecticut case also alleged Jones was guilty of violating Connecticut state laws prohibiting certain forms of deceptive trade practices. Jones continued raking in money from InfoWars, his conspiracy theory-peddling media platform, as he promoted delusional lies about the Sandy Hook shooting.
Jones has also been “temporarily blocked from transferring any assets or spending money other than for ordinary living expenses by the judge overseeing the Sandy Hook defamation trial in Connecticut,” as reported by Bloomberg. The asset freeze will assist in locking down the exact level of money to which Jones actually has access. Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy, but amid questions about the actual financial state of the company, including tens of thousands Jones spent from the firm’s funds on going to Connecticut and alleged debt to a company where Jones and members of his family exercise control, a Texas judge dismissed Jones’s earlier attorney and chief restructuring officer from the bankruptcy proceedings.