A Texas jury on Friday ordered US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages for claiming the deadly Sandy Hook primary shooting in 2012 was a “hoax.”
The verdict came a day after the same jury awarded a couple whose child had died at Sandy Hook, compensatory for emotional stress caused by Jones broadcasting lies over his InfoWars online and radio talk shows over the years. There was $4.1 million in damages.
The colossal sum was ordered from Jones, who over the years gathered a large number for his often outlandish conspiracy claims, the families of some of the 20 schoolchildren and one of the six adults killed by a 20-year-old man. Justified lawsuits against them by the families of adults. Deadliest school shootings in the country.
A total of $49.3 million judgment was awarded to plaintiffs in the Texas case, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of six-year-old son Jesse.
Jones, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, claimed for years on InfoWars that the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was “staged” by gun control activists.
He has since admitted that it was “100 percent real”, but the Sandy Hook families said their denial, along with their ability to influence the beliefs of thousands of followers, caused real emotional trauma.
He was also accused of making massive profits from harmful lies and propaganda.
The verdict is unlikely to be the end of a legal crisis for 48-year-old Jones.
He has been found liable in several defamation lawsuits brought by the parents of Sandy Hook victims, and the Texas case was the first to reach the damages stage.
He is also being investigated for his involvement in the attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021.
During a hearing before the verdict on Friday, Wesley Ball, the attorney for the parents who brought the case, urged the jury to take a stand against misinformation.
“You have the ability to send a message to everyone in this country and perhaps for this world to hear,” he said.
“And that’s stop Alex Jones. Stop the misinformation and the monetization of lies,” he said.
“Stopping Alex Jones stops the root of his message and the root of his message is fear and hate.”
$45.2 million was close to the maximum allowed in respect of the original compensatory damages.
InfoWars declared bankruptcy in April, and Jones, another company owned by Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy last week.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)