5th August, 2022
A Texas jury Thursday ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay more than $4 million to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook school massacre.
Although the fine was significantly less than the $150 million being sought in compensatory damages, it marked the first time the Infowars host has been held financially liable for repeatedly claiming the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history was a hoax.
The Austin jury must still decide how much the Infowars host should pay in 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 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut.
The parents had sought at least $150 million in compensation for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Jones’ attorney asked the jury to limit damages to $8 — one dollar for each of the compensation charges they are considering — and Jones himself said any award over $2 million “would sink us.”
It likely won’t be the last judgment against Jones — who was not in the courtroom — over his claims that the attack was staged in the interests of increasing gun controls.
A Connecticut judge has ruled against him in a similar lawsuit brought by other victims’ families and an FBI agent who worked on the case. He also faces another trial in Austin.
Jones’ lead attorney, Andino Reynal, winked at his co-counsel before leaving the courtroom. He declined to comment on the verdict.
Outside the courthouse, the plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston insisted that the $4.11 million amount wasn’t a disappointment, noting it was only part of the damages Jones will have to pay.
The jury returns Friday to hear more evidence about Jones and his company’s finances.
In a video posted on his website Thursday night, Jones called the reduced award “a major victory.”
“I admitted I was wrong. I admitted it was a mistake. I admitted that I followed disinformation but not on purpose. I apologized to the families. And the jury understood that. What I did to those families was wrong. But I didn’t do it on purpose,” he said.
The award was “more money than my company and I personally have, but we are going to work on trying to make restitution on that,” Jones said.
Bankston suggested any victory declarations might be premature.
“We aren’t done folks,” Bankston said. “We knew coming into this case it was necessary to shoot for the moon to get the jury to understand we were serious and passionate. After tomorrow, he’s going to owe a lot more.”
The total amount awarded in this case could set a marker for the other lawsuits against Jones and underlines the financial threat he’s facing.
It also raises new questions about the ability of Infowars — which has been banned from YouTube, Spotify and Twitter for hate speech — to continue operating, although the company’s finances remain unclear.
Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, conceded during the trial that the attack was “100% real” and that he was wrong to have lied about it.
But Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology wouldn’t suffice and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he has put them and other Sandy Hook families through.