Baltimore Sun

Infowars host ordered to pay Sandy Hook parents $4.1M

- By Jim Vertuno

AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas jury Thursday ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensato­ry damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, marking the first time the Infowars host has been held financiall­y liable for repeatedly claiming the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history was a hoax.

The Austin jury must still decide how much the Infowars host must pay in punitive damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was among the 20 children and six educators who were killed in the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticu­t.

The parents had sought at least $150 million in compensati­on for defamation and intentiona­l infliction of emotional distress. Jones’ attorney asked the jury to limit damages to $8 — one dollar for each of the compensati­on charges they are considerin­g — and Jones himself said any award over $2 million “would sink us.”

It likely won’t be the last judgment against Jones over his claims that the attack was staged in the interests of increasing gun controls. A Connecticu­t judge has ruled against him in a similar lawsuit brought by other victims’ families and an FBI agent who worked on the case.

The Texas award could set a marker for other cases against Jones and underlines the financial threat he’s facing. It also raises new questions about the ability of Infowars — which has been banned from YouTube, Spotify and Twitter for hate speech — to continue operating, although the company’s finances remain unclear.

Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, conceded during the trial that the attack was “100% real” and that he was wrong to have lied about it. But Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology wouldn’t suffice and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he has put them and other Sandy Hook families through.

Jones was the only witness to testify in his defense.

Jones’ media company Free Speech Systems, which is Infowars’ parent company, filed for bankruptcy during the two-week trial.

 ?? BRIANA SANCHEZ/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN ?? Alex Jones, right, said any award over $2 million “would sink us.”
BRIANA SANCHEZ/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN Alex Jones, right, said any award over $2 million “would sink us.”

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