AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas jury on Thursday awarded more than $4 million in damages from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to the parents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I made a decision to pay. Disgraced the victim’s parents by spreading lies about being complicit in a government conspiracy to stage the shooting as a pretext for gun control.
The decision was the first in a series of potential rulings against Mr Jones. On Friday, a jury will consider evidence of Mr. Jones’ net worth to determine whether to award punitive damages to his parents, Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin.
Two other court cases by Sandy Hook’s parents seeking damages from Jones are scheduled for next month, but could be postponed after his company filed for bankruptcy last week.
Mr. Jones has become increasingly emblematic of how misinformation and false narratives garner attention in American society. He has been instrumental in spreading some of the most pernicious conspiracy theories in recent history. Examples include Pizzagate, where Infowars videos inspired gunmen to attack a Washington, D.C. pizzeria, and the coronavirus myth and “stop stealing” fallacy. Election fraud prior to the January 6, 2021 Capitol raid.
The verdict was handed down after several days of emotional testimony. During her 90 minutes on Tuesday, Lewis privately spoke to Jones, asking why she knowingly spread lies about the death of her six-year-old Jesse, who died with 19 other children. rice field. Her first grader and her six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Jessie was a real boy, and I’m a real mom,” Lewis told Jones. We are more polarized than ever as a nation. Part of it is your fault. ”
But the most explosive revelation came on Wednesday, when the family’s attorney, Mark Bankston, revealed that Mr. Jones’ legal team had accidentally sent him the entire contents of Mr. Jones’ cell phone. , which contained at least two years’ worth of incriminating text messages that are now in the spotlight to a House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. The committee is scrutinizing Mr Jones’ role in planning the events surrounding the riot, and Mr Bankston is now seeking a judge’s approval to present the document to prosecutors and the committee on Jan. 6. ing.
Lewis and Heslin are seeking $150 million in damages, and Bankston said he was optimistic about the amount the jury will award on Friday. Bankston said, “If a jury finds more than $4 million in compensatory damages against these plaintiffs, I think the punishment would probably be in that range or more.” “I think it’s perfectly expected that a nine-figure sentence or more will be handed down against Mr. Jones.”
He added: he can’t There was a defendant who walked into that courtroom and said, “I think I have to pay them a dollar.” And this juror said no. ”
Jones said in his bankruptcy filing that he has paid $15 million in litigation costs to date in the Sandy Hook lawsuit. Citing the damages sought by Lewis and Heslin, Jones called the award a “big win” in a video posted to Infowars on Thursday night. He was portrayed as a financial ruin.
“I admitted I was wrong,” he said. “I admitted I was wrong. I admitted I was following disinformation, but it was unintentional. I apologized to my family. And the jury got it.”
Jones lost a series of Sandy Hook defamation lawsuits last year after repeatedly failing to provide court-ordered documents and testimony. These rulings set the stage for trials this summer.
The Sandy Hook family says that more important than money is society’s verdict on a culture where viral misinformation kills lives and ruins reputations.
“Speech is free, but lies have to be paid for,” Bankston told jurors last week. “This is a case about creating change.”
At the center of the trial was a June 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly” featuring Jones. During the broadcast, Heslin protested Jones’ denial of the shooting. He recalled his last moments with Jesse, saying he “put a bullet hole in his son’s head.”
Jones and Infowars host Owen Schroyer then aired a program implying that Heslin lied.
“Do you have an explanation from Heslin or Megyn Kelly?” Shroyer told Infowars. “I will not hold your breath.”
During the trial, Mr. Jones’ attorney, F. Andino Raynal, said Mr. Jones was essentially defending himself. After much uncertainty as to whether the conspiracy broadcaster would testify, he was adamant to appear as the sole witness in his defense.
Heslin and Lewis have deployed various experts. The trial opened with the testimony of former Connecticut State Police investigator Dan Jewis, who led the Sandy Hook case. A forensic psychiatrist and psychologist who treated Mr. Heslin and Mr. Lewis. Their questionable statements allowed the family’s attorneys to produce evidence to the detriment of Mr. Jones. This includes the televised version of the full interview with Mr. Kelly, in which Mr. Jones made inflammatory and false allegations.
Mr. Jones’ audience and corresponding revenue soared to more than $50 million a year in the decade since Sandy Hook.
His Second Amendment defense after the shootings caught the attention of the mainstream press. But Jones’ alliance with former President Donald J. Trump in his December 2015 appearance on Infowars moved him from the far-right faction to the center of Republican populism.
Jones and Trump have often repeated the same inflammatory false allegations, including the racist “birth parent” lie that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. New York area Muslims “celebrated” his September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. And the falsehood of the 2020 election that brought violence to the Capitol last year.