Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered pay $4.1 million to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook massacre for repeatedly claiming the shooting was a hoax.
The far-right radio host and Infowars webcaster, 48, was sued by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, who lost their six-year-old son Jesse Lewis in the 2012 atrocity when 20 pupils and six members of staff were shot dead.
Jones used his media platform to spread lies about the tragedy to millions of listeners, claiming it was staged by actors in a “false flag” plot by the media and activists to bring in more gun control.
At the end of a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, a jury ordered the conspiracy theorist to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages and will now consider adding punative damages to Jones’ bill.
The parents’ lawyer Mark Bankston said Jones “will not sleep easy tonight” after the jury’s verdict was delivered, saying they are “thrilled with the result and look forward to putting Mr Jones’s money to good use.”
They gave evidence during the trial that Jones’ followers had harassed them for years following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, sending death threats in the false belief they were lying about their son’s death.
“I can’t even describe the last nine-and-a-half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones”, said Mr Heslin, during his testimony.
Ms Lewis told Jones directly: “It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this — that we have to implore you to get you to stop lying.”
When his turn came on the witness stand, Jones acknowledged he had spread misinformation, saying the shooting was “100 per cent real”.
He claims he was suffering from a form of psychosis, and told jurors it was “crazy” of him to claim the shooting was a hoax. However he denied responsibility for the actions of those harassing the parents.
Jones was repeatedly admonished by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble for not telling the truth in court about his financial state and compliance with the legal process.
“You are already under oath to tell the truth, you have already violated that oath twice today”, she told him.
“It seems absurd to instruct you again that you must tell the truth while you testify, but here I am. You must tell the truth while you testify. This is not your show.”
In a dramatic moment during Jones’ cross-examination, it was revealed his legal team had accidentally handed over two years’ worth of the conspiracy theorist’s text messages.
Mr Bankston used them to challenge Jones on his claim that he did not have messages referencing Sandy Hook, and at one point asked the radio host: “You know what perjury is, right?”
The Congressional committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is now seeking access to Jones’ messages to see if there was contact between the far right provocateur and President Donald Trump’s team.
The parent company of Infowars, Free Speech Systems LLC, was declared bankruptcy last week in a bid to protect the organisation from the impact of court damages and stay on air.
The jury is due to return to court on Friday to hear further evidence on whether punative damages should be imposed on Jones.