Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been found liable for defamation for repeatedly calling the Sandy Hook school massacre a hoax, while labelling victims' families as “crisis actors.” A Texas jury has decided Jones must pay $4 million USD in compensatory damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was among the 26 people killed in the December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Jackson Proskow looks at the proceedings, and why it's just the start of the Infowars host's legal problems.
Lawyers for parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting began presenting evidence on Alex Jones’s wealth as they seek punitive damages on top of $4.1 million awarded by a Texas jury for the U.S. conspiracy theorist’s false claims that the massacre was a hoax.
Forensic economist Bernard Pettingill on Friday testified on behalf of the parents of slain 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who say they suffered years of harassment after Jones spread falsehoods about the killing of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.
“He promulgated some hate speech and some misinformation but he made a lot of money and he monetized that,” Pettingill said, describing Jones as a “very successful man.”
A 12-person jury on Thursday said Jones must pay the parents $4.1 million in compensatory damages for spreading conspiracy theories about the massacre. Thate verdict followed a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, where Jones’ radio show and webcast Infowars are based.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis testified that Jones’ followers harassed them for years in the false belief that the parents lied about their son’s death.
Jones sought to distance himself from the conspiracy theories during his testimony, apologizing to the parents and acknowledging that Sandy Hook was “100% real.”
Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems LLC, declared bankruptcy last week. Jones said during a Monday broadcast that the filing will help the company stay on the air while it appeals.
The bankruptcy declaration paused a similar defamation suit by Sandy Hook parents in Connecticut where, as in Texas, he has already been found liable.
(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Howard Goller and Mark Porter)
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