A Texas jury on Friday ordered US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages for falsely claiming the fatal 2012 Sandy Hook elementary shooting was a “hoax”.
The verdict came a day after the same jury awarded a couple whose child died in Sandy Hook $4.1 million in compensatory damages for the emotional stress caused by Jones spreading lies for years on its InfoWars online and radio talk shows.
The huge sum ordered from Jones, who for years has garnered a sizable following for his often outlandish conspiracy allegations, has vindicated the lawsuits brought against him by the families of some of the 20 schoolchildren and six adults killed by a 20-year-old man in one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
The total judgment of $49.3 million was awarded to plaintiffs in the Texas case, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of six-year-old son Jesse.
Jones, a staunch 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 acknowledged it was “100% real”, but the Sandy Hook families have argued that his denial, coupled with his ability to sway the beliefs of thousands of followers, caused real emotional trauma.
He has also been accused of making massive profits from harmful lies and misinformation.
The ruling is unlikely to be the end of legal woes for the 48-year-old Jones.
He was found liable in multiple defamation lawsuits brought by parents of Sandy Hook victims, and the Texas case was the first to reach the damages stage.
He is also under scrutiny for his participation in the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.
During Friday’s pre-ruling hearing, 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 for everyone in this country and maybe this world to hear,” he said.
“And that’s stopping Alex Jones. Stop monetizing misinformation and lies,” he added.
“Arresting Alex Jones arrests the root of his message and the root of his message is fear and hate.”
The $45.2 million was close to the maximum allowed for initial compensatory damages.
InfoWars declared bankruptcy in April and another company owned by Jones, 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.)
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