Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to pay almost $1bn (£880m) to the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre after he spread fake theories suggesting the 2012 school shooting was a hoax.
20 children and six adults were killed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the US in December 2012.
In the aftermath of the shooting Jones used his conspiracy theory show InfoWars to claim the massacre was faked by opponents of the Second Amendment.
Alex Jones and his court case explained in 10 points:
Who is Alex Jones? Jones is a far-right conspiracy theorist who has been promoting fake news since the early 2000s. He became famous for his online show called InfoWars where he went on rants about left-wing politicians and conspiracy theories.
InfoWars became a central point for far-right and alt-right views. As the size of InfoWars grew so did Jones's influence and wealth. Popular conspiracy theories promoted include: 9/11 was a hoax, that a deep state movement was trying to rig the 2016 elections, and that the 2020 election was rigged against Donald Trump.
Jones claimed Sandy Hook was a hoax on InfoWars. Using his platform Jones claimed that the massacre was a "false flag" operation staged by people who wanted to ban the sale of firearms in the US. He claimed all the footage was carried out by actors and that no one actually died.
What happened at the trial? The lawsuit accused Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, of using the mass killing to build his audience and make millions of dollars. Experts testified that Jones’ audience swelled, as did his revenue from product sales, when he made Sandy Hook a topic on the show.
The harassment the families received was central to the court case. At the trial, Mark Barden testified that conspiracy theorists urinated on the grave of his 7-year-old son, Daniel, and threatened to dig up the coffin. Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, testified that people mailed rape threats to her house.
What did Jones say at the trial? He called the proceedings a "kangaroo court," mocked the judge, called the plaintiffs’ lawyer an ambulance chaser and labelled the case an affront to free speech rights. He has now admitted the massacre did happen and has apologised on several occasions.
Jones ranted about the trial after it concluded. He did not appear at court when the heavy fine was announced but instead appeared on InfoWars to criticise proceedings. He said it was "all made up, Hilarious," and added "So this is what a show trial looks like. I mean, this is the left completely out of control."
Can Jones afford to pay? Jones has made millions from his business but it is unlikely he will ever be able to pay the full sum. During a separate trial in Texas, he testified he couldn’t afford any judgment over $2 million but an economist testified he and his company was worth $270m.
What did the families say after the verdict was announced? Robbie Parker, who lost his 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, said outside the court that he was proud that "what we were able to accomplish was just to simply tell the truth." Sherlach welcomed the result saying "Going forward - because, unfortunately, there will be other horrific events like this - people like Alex Jones will have to rethink what they say."
Lafferty welcomed the decision but cautioned it was not over. She said: "I wish after today, I could just be a daughter grieving my mom and stop worrying about conspiracy theorists sending me threats or worse. But I know that this is not the end of Alex Jones in my life. I know his hate, lies, and conspiracy theories will follow me and my family for the rest of our days."