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Alex Jones told to pay $965m damages to Sandy Hook victims’ families

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Image source, Reuters

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to pay $965m (£869m) in damages after falsely claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.

The families of eight victims, and an FBI agent who responded to the attack, had sought at least $550m in the defamation trial in Connecticut.

They alleged the right-wing radio host’s misinformation led to a decade’s worth of harassment and death threats.

Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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Jones, who founded the conspiracy-laden Infowars website and talk show, argued for years that the massacre was a “staged” government plot to take guns from Americans and that “no one died”.

He now acknowledges the attack was “100% real”, a concession he made in August at a separate defamation trial in Texas.

The trial in Waterbury, Connecticut – which took place some 20 miles (32 km) from the site of the 2012 shooting – was marked by emotional testimony from a succession of parents.

Some described receiving a deluge of online hate and others said they had to move homes repeatedly for their own safety. A father, Mark Barden, recounted hearing that people were desecrating his son Daniel’s grave by “urinating on it and threatening to dig it up”.

Jurors also heard evidence that Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, made millions of dollars selling nutritional supplements, survival gear and other products on the Infowars catalogue.

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In closing arguments, plaintiffs’ attorney Chris Mattei said: “When every single one of these families were drowning in grief, Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them.”

Jones, for his part, slammed the proceedings as a “show trial” run by a “tyrant” judge and argued he was not to blame for the actions of his followers.

“I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times, and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” he said in dramatic testimony late last month that brought some in the courtroom to tears.

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