Infowars host ordered to pay $4.1 million for falsely claiming Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax
US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre at least $4.1 million for falsely alleging the shooting was a hoax, a Texas jury said Thursday.
The verdict followed a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, where Jones’s radio show and webcast Infowars is based.
The 12-member jury will then consider the parents’ petition for a whopping $75 million in punitive damages from Jones for spreading falsehoods about the murder of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. , on Dec. 14. 2012.
Those deliberations are expected to begin Friday.
Jurors can still award the parents large damages if they believe Jones’ behavior was not very harmful, but still worthy of punishment, legal experts said.
“We are very pleased with the verdict and we look forward to the punitive damages phase starting tomorrow,” Kyle Farrar, a parental attorney, said in an email.
Attorneys for Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Litigation counsel Jill Huntley Taylor said it is not uncommon for a jury to award higher punitive damages than compensatory damages.
“If jurors’ motivation for an award is their anger at the defendant, they often award a higher punitive amount,” she said in an interview.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, divorced parents of murdered six-year-old Jesse Lewis, testified that Jones’ followers harassed them and threatened them with death for years, falsely believing that the parents were lying about their son’s death.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, Farrar urged jurors to end what he called their nightmare and hold Jones responsible for profiting from their son’s death.
Federico Reynal, a Jones attorney, acknowledged during his closing arguments that Jones and Infowars reported “irresponsible” about Sandy Hook, but said his client was not responsible for the harassment.
Jones previously claimed that the mainstream media and gun control activists colluded to fabricate the Sandy Hook tragedy and that the shooting was staged using crisis actors.
He later acknowledged that the shooting took place and tried to distance himself from previous falsehoods during the trial, telling jurors that it was “crazy” of him to repeatedly claim the shooting was a hoax.
He said the shooting was “100% real”.
In a surprising development, Heslin and Lewis’ attorneys revealed on Wednesday that Jones’ attorneys had accidentally sent them two years of his texts and failed to get them back in time.
Gamble on Thursday rejected a mistrial by Jones’ attorney, who argued that plaintiffs’ attorneys should have destroyed the data immediately. The parents can now use the administration as they wish.
In the second phase of the claims process, both parties will make arguments about Jones’ assets. A financial expert has been appointed to testify for the parents.
Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems LLC, filed for bankruptcy last week. Jones said during a Monday broadcast that the filing will help the company stay afloat while it appeals.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble admonished Jones Tuesday for not telling the truth about his bankruptcy and compliance with the discovery during his testimony.
The parents’ attorney also accused Jones of approaching the trial in bad faith, citing broadcasts in which Jones said the trial was rigged against him and that the jury was full of people who “don’t know what planet they are on. “
Heslin and Lewis, along with other Sandy Hook parents, urged a judge to ban the Free Speech System from sending Jones or his companies money until they get to the bottom of their finances.
The parents allege that Jones took $62 million from the company and burdened it with $65 million in “manufactured” debt to PQPR Holdings, a company owned by Jones and his parents.
Jones was due to face a similar lawsuit in Connecticut in September, but that case is now on hold as bankruptcy continues.
Sandy Hook’s gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle to carry out the massacre. It ended when Lanza committed suicide to the approaching sound of police sirens.