Sandy Hook said a Connecticut judge should impose “the highest possible punitive damages” for Alex Jones, suggesting by one calculation that could be as high as $2.75 trillion.
The families said that additional damages are warranted on top of a nearly $1 billion jury award because Jones broke a state law barring the sale of products using false statements. They reached the trillion-dollar sum by multiplying the state law’s up-to $5,000 per-violation fine by the 550 million social media exposures Jones’s audience received on his Facebook, YouTube and Twitter Accounts in the three years following a school shooting that claimed the lives of 20 first graders and six educators in 2012. It was the largest of several damage calculation options the families offered the judge for assessing further penalties.
“The only appropriate punitive damages award in this case is the largest award within the court’s power,” the families’ lawyers said in the filing. “The defendants have acted willfully, maliciously, and evilly, in full knowledge of the harm they are causing people who had no means to fight back, except to bring this case.”
Jones called family members “crisis actors” for years and said their loved ones weren’t murdered during an elementary school mosque. He denied his statements were defamatory.
“Alex Jones perpetrates this attack for one reason: greed,” the families’ lawyers said in the filing Friday. “Alex Jones will never treat them like real people, because they are too valuable to him as targets. “
State Judge Barbara Bellis will determine the final amount Jones must pay. She has previously said Jones violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, or CUTPA, by selling supplements and survival gear during shows that featured his false claims about Sandy Hook.
The Infowars host claims he’s bankrupt and has vowed not to pay the families a dime. On Nov. 12, a Connecticut jury awarded eight families and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting $965 million for the harassment they suffered from Infowars’ fans who bought into Jones’s hoax theory.
The jurors weren’t asked to consider CUTPA and were only asked to calculate defamation and emotional distress damages after Bellis ruled in a separate proceeding that Jones had defamed the families. Jones was found liable by default because he repeatedly refused to provide testimony and documents detailing how much his enterprise earns.
Traditionally, CUTPA has been used to compensate individuals directly harmed by deceptively marketed products. However, the Connecticut Supreme Court decided in a case Sandy Hooks parents brought against the maker of the rifle used in the shooting that CUTPA damages could be awarded to victims indirectly harmed by products marketed with false statements.
Jones’s lawyer Norm Pattis said in a separate filing Friday that CUTPA damages don’t fit the facts of the case. He said the judge “abdicated” her responsibility to give Jones a fair trial by entering the default judgment and evidentiary restrictions against him.
Pattis also claimed the victims’ lawyers should’ve had to show jurors the amount of damages each plaintiff was entitled to, rather than merely argue damages should be big enough to “stop Jones.” The families’ lawyers also failed to tie the specific harassment of each victim who suffered to Jones, Pattis said.
The plaintiffs focused on “arousing sympathy, directing anger, and anchoring a large number before the jury with the hope that jurors would do what they did in this case — award a fortune,” Pattis said in filings requesting that the verdict be set aside and a new trial ordered.
Jones had claimed the judge’s restrictions on what he could tell the jurors put him in an “untenable position” that violated his free speech rights. Bellis had forbidden Jones from testifying about his political beliefs, conspiracy theories, gun control or First Amendment issues he claims explain and excuse his false statements about Sandy Hook.
Jones put Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, into creditor protection in Houston federal bankruptcy court this year, shortly before a different jury in Texas awarded one Sandy Hook family almost $50 million in defamation damages. The conspiracy theorist faces a third defamation trial by a final Sandy Hook family in Texas later this year.
During the Connecticut trial, one of Jones’s employees testedified his companies made between $150 million and $1 billion in sales following Sandy Hook.
Pattis said he’ll appeal the jury’s award because he believes Bellis’s default judgment and restrictions on Jones’s explaining prevented him from presenting the political beliefs and free-speech arguments the talk show host claims and excuse his false statements.
After a few hours of combative under subpeona, Jones “boycotted” the trial in favor of spouting his testimony conspiracy theories and first-amendment arguments to reporters gathered outside the courthouse.
The case is Lafferty v Jones, CV-18-6046436, Connecticut Superior Court (Waterbury).
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