Jury in US state of Texas orders host of Infowars website to pay compensatory damages to parents of a child who was killed in 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
A Texas jury has ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay more than $4 million in compensatory damages to the parents of a six-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, marking the first time the Infowars host has been held financially liable for repeatedly claiming the deadliest school shooting in US history was a hoax.
The Austin jury, which announced the order on Thursday, must still decide how much the Infowars host must 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 massacre 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 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.
Parents suffer from ‘complex’ PTSD
Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, conceded during the trial that the attack was “100 percent 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.
The parents testified Tuesday about how they’ve endured a decade of trauma, inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed: gunshots fired at the home, online and phone threats, and harassment on the street by strangers.
They said the threats and harassment were all fuelled by Jones and his conspiracy theory spread to his followers via his website Infowars.
A forensic psychiatrist testified that the parents suffer from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” inflicted by ongoing trauma, similar to what might be experienced by a soldier at war or a child abuse victim.
At one point in her testimony, Lewis looked directly at Jones, who was sitting barely 10 feet away.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this — that we have to implore you, to punish you — to get you to stop lying,” Lewis told Jones.
Jones was the only witness to testify in his defence.
And he came under withering attack from the plaintiffs’ attorneys under cross-examination, as they reviewed Jones’ own video claims about Sandy Hook over the years, and accused him of lying and trying to hide evidence, including text messages and emails about the attack. It also included internal emails sent by an Infowars employee that said “this Sandy Hook stuff is killing us.