Alex Jones ordered to pay parents of Sandy Hook victim $4M US for calling massacre a hoax

A Texas jury on Thursday ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay more than $4 million to the parents of a six-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. marks the first time the Infowars host has been held financially responsible for repeatedly claiming that the deadliest school shooting in US history was a hoax.

An Austin jury still has to decide how much the Infowars host must pay punitive damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was among the 20 children and six educators who were killed in the crash. 2012 attack in Newtown, Conn.

The parents have sought at least $150 million in damages for defamation and willful emotional distress. Jones’ attorney asked the jury to limit damages to $8 — one dollar for each claim they were considering. Jones himself said any prize above $2 million “would sink us.”

It’s possible this won’t be the final verdict against Jones – who was not in the courtroom – for his claims that the attack was staged in the interest of increased gun control. A Connecticut judge ruled against him in a similar lawsuit brought by other victims’ families and an FBI agent who worked on the case.

‘We’re not done’

Outside court on Thursday, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston asserted that the $4.11 million sum was not a disappointment, noting that it was only a fraction of the damages Jones would receive. must return.

Mark Bankston, an attorney for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, is seen during Jones’ defamation trial Wednesday. (Briana Sanchez / Austin American-Statesman / AP)

The jury returned on Friday to hear more evidence about Jones and his company’s finances.

“We’re not done, friends,” Bankston said. “We know that in this case it is necessary to shoot for the moon to understand that we are serious and passionate. After tomorrow, he will owe more.”

The total amount awarded in this case could mark other lawsuits against Jones, underscoring the financial threat he is facing. It also raises new questions about the ability of Infowars – which has been banned on YouTube, Spotify and Twitter for hate speech – to continue operating, although the company’s finances remain unclear.

Parents being harassed

Jones, who described the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, admitted during testing that the attack was “100% real” and that he was wrong to lie about it. But Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology was not enough and urged them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he caused them and the other Sandy Hook families.

Parents testified Tuesday how they’ve endured a traumatic decade, first with the murder of their son and then with gunshots to the home, online threats and telephone, and harassment in the street by strangers. They said the threats and harassment were both motivated by Jones and that his conspiracy theories had spread to his followers through his Infowars website.

Scarlett Lewis, left, and Neil Heslin, parents of a six-year-old Sandy Hook victim, testified against Jones on Tuesday. (Briana Sanchez / Austin American-Statesman / The Associated Press)

A forensic psychiatrist testified that the parents suffered from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” caused by ongoing trauma, similar to what a soldier in war or a victim of abuse would be. children may have to go through.

At one point in his testimony, Lewis looked directly at Jones, who was sitting about three meters away.

“This seems so unbelievable to me that we have to do this – we have to beg you, punish you – to get you to stop lying,” Lewis told Jones.

A photo of Jesse Lewis, a Sandy Hook shooting victim, is on display in Travis County Courthouse Tuesday. (Briana Sanchez / Austin American-Statesman / AP)

Jones was the only witness to stand in his defense. He was attacked by plaintiffs’ attorneys during the cross-examination, when they reviewed Jones’ own video statements about Sandy Hook over the years, and accused him of lying and attempting to conceal by evidence, including text messages and emails about the attack. It also includes internal emails sent by an Infowars employee saying “this Sandy Hook thing is killing us.”

At one point, Jones was told that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston, who represents Heslin and Lewis, two years’ worth of text messages from Jones’ cell phone. Bankston said in court Thursday that the U.S. House of Representatives’ 2021 Capitol attack committee has requested the records and that he intends to comply.

And shortly after Jones announced “I don’t use email,” Jones was shown an email that came from his address and another from an Infowars salesperson telling Jones that the company had made a profit. total revenue of US$800,000 from selling its products in just one day. , up to nearly 300 million US dollars per year.

Jones’ media company Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars, filed for bankruptcy during a two-week trial.

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