Alex Jones must pay $50m for Sandy Hook hoax claim

Jones outside the courtReuters

US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to pay $49.3m (£41m) in damages after falsely claiming a 2012 school shooting was a hoax.

A jury in Texas ruled the radio host must pay $45.2m in punitive damages, in addition to $4.1m in compensatory damages they awarded a day earlier.

The two-week defamation trial was brought by the parents of a child killed in the attack.

Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

The case was brought by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the separated parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the primary school shooting.

The parents – who said they had endured harassment and emotional distress because of the Infowars founder’s misinformation – were seeking $150m.

The compensatory damages issued on Thursday were meant to cover the actual costs to the family incurred by Jones’ defamation, such as the private security they hired during the trial out of fear of an attack from a Jones supporter.

The punitive damages are meant to act as a deterrent, and stop Jones from repeating his offence.

“We ask that you send a very, very simple message and that is: Stop Alex Jones,” a lawyer for the parents said in court on Friday.

“Stop the monetisation of misinformation and lies. Please.”

Earlier on Friday, an economist hired by the parents testified that Jones, his media brand Infowars and parent company Free Speech Systems were worth up to $270m.

Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy protections at the beginning of the trial.

Despite retracting his claims about Sandy Hook, Jones has continued to use his platform to attack jurors and the judge in this case.

Lawyers for the parents accused Jones of trying to hide evidence, and argued that he had committed perjury when he denied having sent any messages about the Sandy Hook attack.

Earlier this week, an attorney for the plaintiffs revealed that Jones’ legal representative had accidentally sent them two years worth of the radio host’s telephone text messages.

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He said that the congressional committee investigating last year’s US Capitol riot have requested access to the messages as they look into Jones’ alleged role.

This is the first of three trials against Jones being brought by family members of Sandy Hook victims.

He has already lost a series of defamation cases brought by parents of the victims by default after failing to produce documents and testimony.

But this is the trial first in which financial damages were agreed by a jury.

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