By Jack Queen
Oct 6 (Reuters) - A lawyer for families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting on Thursday urged a Connecticut jury to hold conspiracy theorist Alex Jones accountable for building a “lie machine” that profited off of falsehoods about the tragedy.
The attorney, Chris Mattei, said during his closing arguments that Jones and his Infowars website encouraged legions of followers to harass and threaten Sandy Hook families with false claims that they were actors complicit in a government plot to seize guns.
“He built a lie machine that put this stuff out,” Mattei said. “You reap what you sow.”
Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems LLC, have already been found liable for defamation. The state court jury in Waterbury, Connecticut, is charged only with deciding how much they must pay for claiming the killing of 20 young children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was staged.
During his closing arguments Thursday, Jones’ lawyer urged jurors to ignore the polarizing political undercurrents of the case and focus narrowly on the plaintiffs' actual losses.
"This is not an action to make a political statement, to silence Alex Jones -- no matter how satisfying that might feel" defense attorney Norman Pattis said.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Thursday afternoon.
Over the past several weeks, families of eight Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting offered anguished testimony about their suffering at the hands of Jones’ followers.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys also presented evidence that Sandy Hook conspiracy theories helped grow Infowars’ audience to hundreds of millions and drove a surge in sales of the site's products, including nutritional supplements and doomsday supplies.
Jones, who has since acknowledged the shooting occurred, briefly threw the trial into chaos during his testimony last month, railing against his “liberal” critics and refusing to apologize to the families.
In August, Jones was hit with a $49.3 million jury verdict in a similar case in Texas, where Free Speech Systems is based.
Jones' lawyers hope to void most of that verdict before a judge approves it, calling it excessive under Texas law. (Reporting by Jack Queen; editing by David Bario and Jonathan Oatis)