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A jury decides Alex Jones owes nearly $1 billion for Sandy Hook lies

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

"Infowars" host and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay nearly a billion dollars to the relatives of eight Sandy Hook victims and a former FBI agent. That's a decision a Connecticut jury reached Wednesday after three weeks of testimony. Families who lost loved ones during the 2012 school shooting filled the gallery each day and took turns recounting how Jones's lies about the mass shooting compounded their grief.

In August, a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay more than 45 million in damages for calling the attack that killed 21st graders and six staffers a hoax. He also faces a third trial again in Texas. As Connecticut Public Radio's Frankie Graziano reports, it's the price for a decade of lies.

FRANKIE GRAZIANO, BYLINE: Jurors heard many times during the trial a clip of Alex Jones claiming the tragedy was a government-sponsored hoax. He said it the same day 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook. Claims like that resulted in harassment of victims' relatives. Erica Lafferty says letters were sent to her house.

ERICA LAFFERTY: There were threats of rape.

GRAZIANO: Lafferty wishes she could share the news that Jones is now liable for at least $965 million with her mother, who was the principal of the Sandy Hook school. She was killed that day. Lafferty does say it's not over. She still worries.

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LAFFERTY: I wish that after today, I could just be a daughter grieving my mother and stop worrying about conspiracy theories sending me threats or worse. But I know that this is not the end of Alex Jones in my life.

GRAZIANO: She did stand up to Jones, so did Robbie Parker. His daughter Emilie was 6 years old when she was killed. For years, Jones mocked Parker for laughing, then crying in a statement Parker made just a day after the shooting. Parker was called a crisis actor by conspiracy theorists. He was nearly silent for years. Finally, with the help of his lawyers, he fought back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBBIE PARKER: 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.

GRAZIANO: Jones was sued by the Connecticut plaintiffs for defamation in 2018. He'd already been found liable by the time the trial started, so it was held to determine how much he owed the families in damages. And when it got underway, the plaintiff said the goal was to stop Jones. At the end of it, plaintiff's attorney Josh Koskoff was asked if the result was ruinous for the "Infowars" host.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSH KOSKOFF: If this verdict shuts down Alex Jones, good.

GRAZIANO: In addition to the $965 million, the jury ordered Jones to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees and expenses. And the judge can still lay down additional punitive damages. There's two other Sandy Hook lawsuits in another state that will incur more penalties for Jones. He hasn't disclosed how much money he has. It's unclear exactly how much he can pay. Chris Mattei, the attorney for the families, says they won't relent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS MATTEI: We are going to go to whatever form we have to, whether it's in Texas or in bankruptcy court or right here. We are going to enforce this verdict as long as it takes.

GRAZIANO: As long as it takes, because that's, he says, what justice requires. For NPR News, I'm Frankie Graziano in Glastonbury, Conn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frankie Graziano joined CPBN in October of 2011 as a sports producer. In addition to reporting for WNPR, Graziano produces feature profiles for CPTV and the web.