Jury finds Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million over Sandy Hook hoax allegations

Aug 4 (Reuters) – US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is set to pay the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre at least $4.1 million for falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax, a Texas jury said Thursday.

The verdict follows a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, where Jones’ Infowars radio show and webcast is based. The amount was well below the millions of dollars in compensatory damages sought.

Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, estranged parents of slain six-year-old Jesse Lewis, testified that Jones supporters harassed them and sent death threats for years in the false belief that the parents were lying about the death of their son.

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The 12-person jury will next consider Jones’ parents’ claim for punitive damages for spreading lies about the December 14 murder of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 2012.

Those deliberations are expected to begin after both sides make submissions on Jones’ net worth on Friday.

The jurors, who voted 10-2 on compensatory damages, could still award the parents a significant punitive damages verdict if they think Jones’ conduct was not grossly harmful but worthy of punishment. , said legal experts.

“We are very pleased with the verdict and look forward to the punitive damages phase which begins tomorrow,” Kyle Farrar, the parents’ attorney, said in an email.

Jones’ attorneys, who were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trial consultant Jill Huntley Taylor said it’s not uncommon for a jury to award higher punitive damages than compensatory damages.

“If jurors’ motivation for an award is their anger at the defendant, then they often award more punitive damages,” she said in an interview.

During closing arguments on Wednesday, Farrar urged jurors to end what he called their nightmare and hold Jones accountable for profiting from their son’s death.

‘100% REAL’

Federico Reynal, an attorney for Jones, acknowledged in closing argument that Jones and Infowars made an “irresponsible” report on Sandy Hook, but said his client was not responsible for the harassment.

Jones previously claimed that the mainstream media and gun control activists conspired to fabricate the Sandy Hook tragedy and that the shooting was staged with crisis actors.

He later acknowledged the shooting had taken place and sought to distance himself from previous lies during the trial, telling jurors it was “crazy” of him to repeatedly claim the shooting was a hoax.

He said the shoot was “100% real”.

In a surprising development, lawyers for Heslin and Lewis revealed Wednesday that Jones’ lawyers had inadvertently sent them two years of his texts and had not requested them in time.

Gamble on Thursday denied a motion to have the trial dismissed by Jones’ attorney who argued that the plaintiffs’ attorneys should have immediately destroyed the records. Parents can now use the cards as they see fit.

Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems LLC, filed for bankruptcy last week. Jones said on a Monday show that the filing will help the company stay on the air while it appeals.

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble chastised Jones on Tuesday for not telling the truth about his bankruptcy and respecting discovery during his testimony.

The parents’ attorney also accused Jones of approaching the trial in bad faith, citing shows where Jones said the trial was rigged against him and the jury was full of people who “don’t know what planet on they find themselves”.

Heslin and Lewis joined other Sandy Hook parents in urging a judge to stop Free Speech System from sending money to Jones or his businesses until they get to the bottom of their finances. Read more

The parents claim that Jones took $62 million from the company while burdening it with $65 million in “fabricated” debt owed to PQPR Holdings, a company owned by Jones and his parents.

Jones was due to stand trial in a similar lawsuit in Connecticut in September, but that case is now on hold pending bankruptcy proceedings.

Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, 20, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle to carry out the massacre. It ended when Lanza killed himself with the approaching sound of police sirens.

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Reporting by Jack Queen; edited by Amy Stevens, Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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