Austin, Texas – A Texas jury on Thursday ordered radio host Alex Jones to pay more than $4 million in damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, marking the first time the Infowars- host has been held financially liable for repeatedly claiming the deadliest school shooting in US history was a hoax.
The Austin jury has yet to decide how much the Infowars host should pay Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was one of 20 children and six educators killed in the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut.
The parents had demanded at least $150 million in compensation for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jones’ attorney asked the jury to limit damages to $8 — one dollar for each of the fees they consider — and Jones himself said any prize over $2 million would “sink us.”
It probably won’t be the final verdict against Jones over his claims that the attack was staged in the interest of increasing gun controls. A Connecticut judge has ruled against him in a similar lawsuit filed by the families of other victims and an FBI agent working on the case.
The Texas award could be a milestone for other cases against Jones and underscores the financial threat he faces. It also raises new questions about Infowars’ ability – which has been banned from YouTube, Spotify and Twitter for hate speech – to continue operating, though the company’s finances remain unclear.
Jones admitted at trial that the attack was real and that he had falsely lied about it. But Heslin and Lewis told the jurors that an apology would not be enough and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he inflicted on them and other Sandy Hook families.
Jones’ media company Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars, has filed for bankruptcy during its two-week trial.