(WATERBURY, Conn.) -- A Connecticut jury awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to 15 plaintiffs defamed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones when the Infowars host called the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a hoax staged by actors following a script written by the government to build support for gun control.
With the plaintiffs sobbing in the gallery, the clerk read out the verdict in which the jury decided compensatory damages for both slander and for emotional distress.
The compensatory damages total about a billion dollars, far exceeding the award in a prior case in Texas. He was ordered to pay just shy of $50 million in that case, which was decided in August.
The jury also awarded attorneys fees and costs Wednesday.
Jones, who was on the air with his radio program as the verdict was read, told his listeners, "This must be what hell is like -- they just read out the damages, even though you don't got the money."
His attorney, attorney Norm Pattis, told reporters they plan to appeal the decision.
"Candidly, from start to finish, the fix was in in this case," Pattis said outside the courthouse. "We disagree with the basis of the default, we disagree with the court's evidentiary rulings."
"In more than 200 trials in the course of my career, I've never seen a trial like this," he continued.
The plaintiffs, relatives of victims and an FBI agent who responded to the scene, testified that they were tormented by Jones' followers who believed his lies about the massacre. The families said they were harassed and threatened in the decade since the shooting.
One of the plaintiffs, Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, thanked his lawyers for helping him "fight and stand up to what had been happening to me for so long."
"I'm just proud that what we were able to accomplish was just to simply tell the truth. And it shouldn't be this hard. And it shouldn't be this scary," he said in an emotional statement given outside the courthouse.
Parker expressed gratitude for the jury "not just because of their verdict, but for what they had to endure, what they had to listen to," he continued.
Jones testified he believed at the time the shooting might have been staged but he has since said he now believes it's real. He declined to apologize to the families on the stand in this trial, saying he had already apologized enough.
A judge last year found Jones and Infowars' parent company, Free Speech Systems, liable in the defamation lawsuit, with plaintiffs that include an FBI agent who responded to the scene and eight families of victims that Jones called actors.
The plaintiffs' attorney had asked that Jones pay $550 million to a group of Sandy Hook parents, who claim the Infowars host spread lies about the mass shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school children.
The attorney, Chris Mattei, asked the six jurors to "think about the scale of the defamation," citing as one example Jones' claim the families, "faked their 6- or 7-year-old's death."
Pattis told jurors it was not their job to bankrupt Jones so he would stop broadcasting lies.
Pattis said he represents a "despised human being" but balked at the half-billion-dollar sum proposed by the plaintiffs' attorney.
"It would take a person earning $100,000 a year hundreds of years to make $550 million," Pattis said during his closing statement.
Jones faces a third, and final, trial that could result in another hefty damage award.