US: Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million in Sandy Hook case

The plaintiffs in the Texas case had originally sought $150 million in compensatory damages



Photo: AP
Photo: AP

By AFP

Published: Fri 5 Aug 2022, 9:22 AM

On Thursday, a Texas jury ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay about $4.1 million, in damages, to the parents of a child who was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The jury deliberated for one day before deciding on the amount of compensatory damages that Jones was to pay for falsely claiming that the Sandy Hook shooting was a "hoax".

Jones claimed for years on his website InfoWars and popular radio show that the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children dead, was "staged" by gun control activists, but has since acknowledged it was "100 per cent real".

Jones, aged 48, has been found liable in multiple defamation lawsuits brought by parents of the Sandy Hook victims, of which the Texas case was the first to reach the damages phase.

After deciding on $4.1 million in compensatory damages for causing emotional distress, the jury (based in Austin, Texas) will now hear evidence on whether punitive damages are warranted.

The $4.1 million is far less than the $150 million in compensatory damages sought by the plaintiffs in the Texas case— Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of six-year-old Jesse.

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Earlier on Thursday, the judge in the case denied Jones' request for a mistrial, after his lawyers mistakenly turned over the conspiracy theorist's cell phone records to the opposing attorneys.

"I don't think it's a mistrial based on this," Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told an emergency hearing that was called to discuss the inadvertent release of the material by Jones' lawyers.

During the final day of testimony on Wednesday, Mark Bankston, a lawyer for the parents, told Jones from the witness stand that his attorneys had "messed up".

"They sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you've sent for the past two years, and when informed did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protected in any way," Bankston said.

Bankston noted that Jones had repeatedly said, under oath, that a search of his cellphone had not produced any text messages about Sandy Hook, but there were indeed such messages in the records he accidentally received.

"Do you know what perjury is?" Bankston asked Jones.

Arguing for a mistrial, F. Andino Reynal, a lawyer for Jones, said he had followed up the mistaken release of the records with an email saying, "Please disregard."

"'Please disregard' creates no legal duty on me whatsoever," Bankston countered. "None."

Bankston said "various federal agencies" had asked for the phone records along with the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

Trump appeared frequently on Jones' radio show during his 2016 White House campaign, and the InfoWars founder was in Washington when supporters of the then-president stormed Congress, in a bid to prevent the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.

Jones has also testified to the committee behind closed doors.

InfoWars declared bankruptcy in April and another company owned by Jones, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy last week.


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