A jury ordered Infowars host Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million to 2 Sandy Hook parents — far less than the $150 million the plaintiff's attorneys requested
- A jury found that Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to two parents whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.
- Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis sued Jones for defamation over his bogus "hoax" claims about the 2012 shooting.
A Texas jury found that Infowars' Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to two parents whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre over the far-right conspiracy theorist's repeated bogus claims that the mass shooting was a "hoax."
Ten of twelve jurors in Jones' defamation damages trial in Austin, Texas, awarded the money to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was one of the 26 killed in the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, rampage.
The jury deliberated for less than a day before returning their final decision on Thursday afternoon.
Jones, who testified during the more than week-long trial in his own defense, previously told the court that Infowars raked in $70 million in revenue last year but that "any compensation above $2 million will sink us, and we will shut down."
Jones will now face the possibility of further punitive damages the jury could award the parents. Joshua Ritter, a criminal attorney based in Los Angeles, told Insider after the ruling that punitive damages, which as the name suggests are intended to punish the wrongdoer, could be much higher.
"If they get punitive damages, it could be five times" the $4 million in compensatory damages, Ritter said.
Heslin and Lewis sued Jones, the founder of Infowars, and his media company Free Speech Systems for defamation over his falsehoods about the mass shooting that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy protection last week.
The parents — who are among several Sandy Hook families to have sued Jones for defamation — had asked for $150 million in compensation for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress in the civil case, while Jones' attorney asked that the jury make his client pay no more than $8.
Both Heslin and Lewis testified during the trial that they endured years of torment, harassment, and death threats stemming from Jones repeatedly telling his audience that the Sandy Hook shooting was a "giant hoax" staged by the government with "crisis actors."
Heslin told the court that Jones made his life a "living hell" as a result of the "negligence and recklessness" of Jones "and the propaganda that he peddled for his own profits and success."
"Alex is the one with the match that started the fire," said Heslin who testified that his home has been shot at.
Lewis said the harassment she received from Jones' followers made her feel "victimized."
"It's fear for your life," Lewis told the court, which heard how the mother sleeps with a gun, knife, and pepper spray near the bed.
Jones led a decade-long "massive campaign of lies" about the deadliest school shooting in United States history and "recruited wild extremists from fringes of the internet who were willing to be as cruel as Mr. Jones needed them to be," an attorney for the parents said during his opening statements in the case.
The founder and host of the Austin-based Infowars has already been found liable by default by the Texas court and a court in Connecticut for his depiction of the rampage. The judges ruled against Jones last year after he failed to turn over court-ordered documents and financial records.
Jones — who only attended some of the trial and even broadcasted about it throughout the case — testified on Wednesday that he realizes his messages about the Sandy Hook shooting were irresponsible.
"Especially since I've met the parents. It's 100% real," Jones said of the Sandy Hook massacre.
Jones added, "I do acknowledge that I unintentionally took part in things that did hurt these people's feelings, and I am sorry for that."
While Jones was on the witness stand, he attempted to downplay Infowars' coverage of the Sandy Hook massacre, saying it was "less than 1/10 percent" over a six-year period.
The trial took a bizarre turn during Jones' testimony when an attorney for Heslin and Lewis revealed in court that Jones' defense attorney "messed up" and sent him a digital copy of Jones's cell phone.
The copy of Jones' phone showed a text about the Sandy Hook massacre that Jones claimed did not exist, as well as financial information for Infowars that Jones didn't turn over during deposition in that case.
"That is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn't have text messages about Sandy Hook," plaintiff attorney Mark Bankston told Jones.
During his closing arguments, Jones' defense attorney, F. Andino Reynal, argued that his client "ran with a story and he made a mistake."
"He trusted the wrong people. He was going through a difficult time in his life and he ran with a story that ended up being false," Reynal told the jury. "That mistake was weaponized by the same political forces that descended upon Sandy Hook."
Reynal claimed that "zero evidence deserves minimal damages" and said the jury should award the parents the smallest amount possible: $8.
In his closing remarks, one of the Sandy Hook family attorneys, Kyle Farrar, asked jurors, "what did it mean for Jones to steal their last memory in order to sell more products?"
Farrar insisted on Wednesday that the parents deserved $150 million in total damages from Jones.
"We apparently are still living in this Alex Jones conspiracy world – where you guys were handpicked by the clerk and the judge is the deep state. Because that's the conspiracy theory that Alex Jones wants to tell the world when he has to pay," Farrar said. "This verdict is your weapon to right a serious wrong."
The trial is the first of three in which juries will determine how much Jones must pay in damages to Sandy Hook families.
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