An Austin jury on Thursday decided Infowars host Alex Jones must pay at least $4.1 million to the family of a 6-year-old killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting for the suffering he and his website and broadcast caused them by spreading lies about the 2012 massacre.
Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse died alongside 19 of his classmates and six educators at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, had sought $150 million for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
An attorney for Jones, who has repeatedly suggested that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, asked jurors to award Heslin and Lewis only $1.
The jury was only asked to decide whether Jones, who has already been found liable by a judge because he did not hand over critical evidence before the trial began, must also pay Jesse’s parents for the emotional distress and reputational damage caused by his false claims. The jury will also decide whether to award punitive damages. The panel will hear testimony on that subject Friday.
Speaking on Infowars Thursday, Jones said he’d made a mistake and “followed disinformation — but not on purpose. I apologized to the families and the jury understood that.”
Noting that the plaintiffs had been awarded $4 million — and not the $150 million they’d sought — Jones also described the verdict as a “big victory against the tyrants and the new world order.”
The trial included testimony from both parents and Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights. Following the shooting, he had asserted that it was fabricated and included crisis actors. He later acknowledged that it took place.
His attorney, Andino Reynal, argued that Jones has paid for his mistake by losing millions of followers after he was removed from social media platforms in 2018.
“He made a terrible mistake,” Reynal told jurors, referring to Jones. “That mistake was weaponized by the same political forces that had descended upon Sandy Hook when it happened.”
As the jury deliberated Thursday, Reynal requested a mistrial because his team accidentally sent the contents of Jones’ cell phone to lawyers for Heslin and Lewis. A lawyer for Heslin and Lewis used some of the information on Wednesday to point out inconsistencies in Jones’ testimony. The judge denied the request.
Heslin and Lewis testified on Tuesday that Jones’ lies left them in fear for their lives and compounded their grief.
“Having a 6-year-old son shot in front of his classroom is unbearable and you don’t think you’re going to survive and then to have someone on top of that perpetuate a lie that it was a hoax, that it was a false flag,” Lewis said, speaking directly to Jones during her testimony. “I don’t think you understand the fear you perpetuate, not just to the victim’s family but to our family, our friends and any survivor from that school.”
The crux of the trial is a 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” on which Heslin appeared and challenged Jones’ denial of the shooting. Heslin says in the episode: “I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.”
Jones and another Infowars host, Owen Shroyer, later implied that Heslin had lied.
Heslin and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families who have filed lawsuits against Jones arguing that his statements that the mass shooting was a hoax have led to years of abuse from his followers.
Tim Stelloh contributed.
Source: CNBC News