Conspiracy theorist and brain pill salesman Alex Jones will have to win the next big Powerball jackpot to pay off the damages he now owes for repeatedly and falsely claiming the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax.
In addition to the $965 million that jurors ordered Jones to pay the victims’ families last month — and $45.2 million in damages awarded in a separate lawsuit — Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis on Thursday ruled that the Infowars host should pay an extra $473 million. This sum encompasses the plaintiffs’ legal fees (set at a third of the original judgment) and $150 million for violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act, which prohibits businesses from profiting by deceptive or fraudulent means. That brings Jones’ tab to an eye-watering $1.48 billion.
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In her ruling, the judge described how Jones’ near-decade of “wanton, malicious, and heinous” attacks harmed grieving families who had lost young children in a mass shooting, leading to their intimidation and harassment by people who believed his lies. She concluded: “This depravity, and cruel, persistent course of conduct by the defendants establishes the highest degree of responsibility and blameworthiness.”
Bellis has meanwhile frozen Jones’ assets over concerns that he may be hiding millions of dollars in shell companies while claiming to be essentially bankrupt. She ordered that Jones, apart from his ordinary living expenses, “is not to transfer, encumber, dispose, or move his assets out of the United States, until further order of the court.” He will face a hearing on the issue of his finances in December.
Jones — who is also slated for a third, as yet unscheduled defamation trial in Texas — dismissed the decision as a “joke” on his show Thursday, claiming to have little money to his name. “It’d be like if you sent me a bill for a billion dollars in the mail,” he said. “Oh man, we got you. It’s all for psychological effect.” Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy this year, with the Sandy Hook families challenging this move in a Houston federal court, arguing that it’s an effort to avoid paying the damages levied against him.
Norm Pattis, Jones’ lawyer, indicated that they will continue with plans to appeal the Connecticut case. “To paraphrase Karl Marx, the verdict was tragedy, this latest ruling is farce,” he said of Bellis’ order. “It makes our work in appeal that much easier.”
Although Jones, in testimony, conceded that 20 first-graders and six adults really were killed in an assault by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, his resistance to the discovery process in court has led to default losses, and he’s said that he’s “done” apologizing for his actions. Judge Bellis also noted that the defendants had, throughout the Connecticut trial, utilized an “immense media platform and audience to continue to target the plaintiffs, as well as mocking the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the court, and the very jury they selected.”
“It is, quite simply, unprecedented in American jurisprudence,” she wrote.
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