A Texas jury on Friday ordered Infowars’ Alex Jones to pay $49.3 million in total damages to the parents of a first-grader killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. , which the conspiracy theorist falsely calls a government hoax intended to tighten U.S. gun laws.
Less than the $150 million sought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was among 19 children and six educators killed in the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
The trial is the first time Jones has been held financially responsible for selling lies about the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut.
The jury initially awarded Heslin and Lewis $4.1 million in punitive damages, which Jones called a big win. But in the final stages of the two-week trial, the same Austin jury returned and paid an additional $45.2 million in punitive damages.
Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants for particularly egregious conduct, in addition to monetary compensation awarded to individuals to whom they have hurt. Highly punitive rewards are also seen as an opportunity for jurors to send a broader social message and as a way to prevent others from committing similar heinous behavior in the future.
The family’s attorneys have urged jurors to impose a financial penalty that could put Infowars out of business.
Wesley Ball, a parent’s attorney, told the jury: “You have the ability to stop this man from doing it again.
It’s not clear how much money Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, have.
An economist hired by the plaintiffs testified that Jones and the company were worth up to $270 million, indicating that Jones was still making money.
But Jones testified that any prize above $2 million would “sink us”. And Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy protection within the first week of the trial.
Jones still faces two other defamation lawsuits from the Sandy Hook family in Texas and Connecticut.