Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million to Sandy Hook parents, jury rules
Infowars founder Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting, an Austin jury announced Thursday
, after the right-wing conspiracy theorist’s false claims that the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history was a “giant hoax” created a “living hell” for the family.
The decision means Jones, America’s foremost purveyor of outlandish conspiracy theories, could pay less than the $150 million sought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, for remarks nearly a decade ago after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, 20 of them young children.
But it remains to be seen how much Jones, 48, might be ordered to pay in punitive damages. The jury is expected to return Friday to weigh that amount — a sum that could be considerably higher.
While the damages awarded to Jesse’s parents Thursday acknowledge the suffering they endured, punitive damages can be levied to punish a defendant and prevent future abuse.
“Punitive damages are the opportunity for the jurors to send a message,” said trial consultant Jill Huntley Taylor, who was not involved in the case.
Shortly after the 2012 shooting, Jones falsely claimed that “no one died” at Sandy Hook and that the attack was “staged” and “manufactured” by gun-control advocates.
The remarks not only outraged grieving parents but led to death threats and abuse from strangers. Heslin told the jury on Tuesday that Jones’s false claims had made his life a “living hell.”
“Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the result and look forward to putting Mr. Jones’s money to good use,” said Mark Bankston, a lawyer for the parents.
“With punitive damages still to be decided and multiple additional defamation lawsuits pending, it is clear that Mr. Jones’s time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.”