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A Texas jury on Thursday ordered conspiracy theorist and media personality Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million to the parents of a Sandy Hook shooting victim who sued him for defamation after he repeatedly claimed that the school shooting was a hoax.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis were seeking $150 million from Jones after he told listeners on his Austin website and broadcast Infowars that the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, in which 20 children and six adults died, it was faked by the government in order to take guns away from americans. His claims led his listeners to harass the victims’ families and make death threats against them for years.
The jury’s verdict offers much less than that, but there is still an opportunity for more money to be awarded. Thursday’s verdict was to determine compensatory damages for the family. The case will now enter a new phase to determine punitive damages, which can be awarded to punish a defendant for reckless, negligent or outrageous behavior or to deter future bad acts.
Jones has spread misinformation about national tragedies, COVID-19 and elections for years to a wide national audience. But lately, financial pressures, in part from multiple lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents, have put it in dire financial straits. His companies have filed for bankruptcy several times in recent months, including most recently during the defamation trial.
The the Austin American-Statesman reported that Jones’ attorney, F. Andino Reynal, asked jurors to award a total of $8, one dollar for each of the eight damages the court has already found that Jones and his parent company, Free Speech Systems, had inflicted on Heslin and Lewis.
Jurors decided the amount of damages Jones owes the parents after hearing evidence and testimony from several witnesses over seven days. During their testimony Tuesday, Heslin and Lewis said Jones needed to be held accountable for the lies he told about the tragedy in order for them to try to heal from the trauma and loss they experienced.
Heslin said he wants the outcome of this lawsuit to restore his own credibility and reputation, which was tarnished by Jones, as well as the legacy of his 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis.
Parents have already described their son as a hero. During the Sandy Hook shooting, he ran into the hallway of the elementary school when he first heard gunshots, they said in a legacy.com obituary Jesse confronted the shooter and yelled for other kids to run. Nine children were able to escape from the classroom where they were hiding.
During his testimony Wednesday, Jones admitted that the Sandy Hook shooting was “100 percent real.”
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Mark Bankston, confronted Jones on Wednesday with several pieces of evidence suggesting Jones had lied during his testimony. Bankston told him that Jones’ own lawyers had accidentally sent opposing counsel the contents of Jones’ phone for the past two years. He then pointed to several texts and other evidence that contradicted Jones’ earlier testimony.
Throughout his testimony, Jones repeatedly portrayed himself as a victim. He said his identity was “stolen” and he was made a “monster” by the mainstream media after speaking about the Sandy Hook shooting on Infowars.
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