US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must compensate the parents of a six-year-old boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre with $ 45.2 million (AU $ 65.4 million) in punitive damages, a jury said. Texas.
The penalty is in addition to $ 4.1 million (AU $ 5.9 million) in damages already awarded – for falsely claiming that the shooting was a hoax.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, separated parents of murdered 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, tested that Jones’s followers harassed them and sent them death threats for years under the false belief that they were lying about their son’s death on December 14, 2012. , shooting that killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
On Thursday, the 12-person jury decided on damages following a two-week trial in the defamation case presided over by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble at the state court in the Texas capital, Austin, where Jones and Jones radio show is based. the Infowars webcast.
The parents had claimed $ 211.1 million ($ 145.9 million) in punitive damages and $ 217 million ($ 150 million) in compensatory damages.
Compensation for damages is awarded to cover the suffering and losses of an actor. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the actions of a defendant.
Jones, who was a prominent figure in American right-wing circles and a supporter of former President Donald Trump, called the Sandy Hook massacre a staged US government hoax using crisis actors as a pretext to take away weapons. to the Americans.
“We ask you to send a very, very simple message, and that is: Stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies,” Wesley Todd Ball, a parental attorney, told jurors on Friday before deliberations on damages began. punitive.
Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza used a Remington Bushmaster rifle to carry out the massacre. He ended when Lanza killed himself with the sound approaching
Jones’ attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, asked jurors to return a verdict of $ A388,470 ($ US 270,000) based on the number of hours Infowars spent covering Sandy Hook.
Forensic economist Bernard Pettingill tested on Friday on behalf of Lewis’s parents that Jones “promulgated some hate speech and misinformation” and “made a lot of money.”
Jones and Infowars are worth between $ 135 million ($ 195 million) and $ 270 million ($ 391 million), he said.
Jones tried to distance himself from conspiracy theories during his testimony, apologizing to his parents and acknowledging that Sandy Hook was “100% real”.
Jones’s company, Free Speech Systems LLC, filed for bankruptcy last week. Jones said on a Monday broadcast that the filing will help the company stay on air while it appeals. The filing for bankruptcy put a similar parental defamation lawsuit on Sandy Hook in Connecticut where, as in Texas, it already has
During Wednesday’s concluding discussions, Kyle Farrar, a parental attorney, urged the jury to end what he called their nightmare and hold Jones accountable for profiting from his son’s death.
Mr. Reynal acknowledged during his concluding discussion that Jones and Infowars reported “irresponsibly” about Sandy Hook, but claimed that his client was not responsible for the harassment.
Plaintiffs also accused Jones of approaching the trial in bad faith, citing broadcasts claiming that the case was rigged against him and that the jury pool was filled with people who “don’t know which planet they are on.”