Whether or not you’re a fan of bombastic talk radio host Alex Jones, the most recent jury award over remarks he made following the horrific 2012 murders of 20 second graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut is, at its core, the destruction of the First Amendment.
In the aftermath of that horrible attack, Jones claimed, albeit falsely, that “the shooting was staged and that the families were crisis actors in an effort by the government to confiscate Americans’ guns,” the Daily Wire reported on Wednesday after a jury in Connecticut ordered Jones to pay Sandy Hook families more than $950 million in damages. The award follows “a ruling from a separate jury in Texas ordered Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages, an amount that may soon be reduced due to state laws capping the amount of damages,” the outlet added.
The award came after three weeks of testimony from family members of the young victims and an FBI agent who responded to the shootings, which were committed by Adam Lanza, who committed suicide as police were closing in on him. The case was a consolidation of three other cases brought by parents, family members, and the FBI agent.
“You may say that is astronomical. It is,” Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the plaintiffs said while addressing the jurors after asking them to award the plaintiffs $550 million. “It’s exactly what Alex Jones set himself up to do. That’s what he built. He built a lie machine that could push this stuff out. You reap what you sow.”
However, according to an analysis of a Texas case against Jones by Revolver News in August, “amidst all of the fanfare and controversy, it is easy to overlook just how weak the defamation case against Jones really was.”
The analysis notes that while a jury in Austin awarded plaintiffs Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin $4.1 million, they had sought $150 million in damages:
The Sandy Hook parents mentioned above based their defamation claim on a 2017 NBC interview where Heslin said he held his son’s body after he was murdered. In a contemporaneous Infowars segment, reporter Owen Shroyer said that, “according to a timeline of events and a coroner’s testimony, that is not possible,” and Jones responded by calling Heslin to “clarify” his statements. Otherwise, all of Jones’s “defamatory” behavior is premised on him making wild but vague allegations of a Sandy Hook false flag by unknown forces. Virtually all of the damages, meanwhile, are based on blaming Jones for the actions of people he doesn’t even know.
“Based on the alleged trauma caused by Jones’s claims, and harassment from various people who are neither Jones himself nor acting on his orders, the plaintiffs sought a staggering $150 million in damages. The $4.1 million judgment is mercifully less than that, but after punitive damages come in Jones will still be paying a massive amount,” Revolver News noted further, adding that shortly thereafter, Jones put his company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The outlet acknowledged that Jones’ accusations of a false flag were indeed highly controversial and came at a bad time — when parents were grieving the loss of their children who were murdered in a horrific manner. Jones later admitted he should not have covered the story the way he did.
“At the same time, it is a very dangerous precedent to set when the feelings of grieving families can be used to silence reporting — even ‘conspiratorial and crazy’ reporting — on tragedies of national significance,” Revolver News continued.
“The Sandy Hook tragedy was a very public and very politicized event from the beginning, and almost immediately became enveloped into a national debate about gun control. Just months after the Sandy Hook Tragedy, Connecticut passed a dramatic enhancement to its so-called ‘assault weapons ban.’ New York and Maryland took similar action, while Senator Diane Feinstein proposed a severe assault weapons ban at the national level, which never passed,” the outlet added.
“Given the political stakes involved, it seems consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment and the spirit of a free society to allow maximum discussion and deliberation about a major tragedy serving as the catalyst for legislation, even if some of that discussion turns out to be silly, crude, cruel, irresponsible, or even harmful to the emotional state of the families affected by that tragedy,” Revolver News continued.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, we now have a highly controversial jury award under circumstances that are going to chill, not protect, free speech, however outlandish it may be.
After all, our founders spoke out against the British crown at a time when doing so could get you jailed and executed.