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After years of spreading despicable lies about the parents of murdered children, bombastic charlatan and conspiracy pusher Alex Jones is finally being held accountable.
After less than a day of deliberating, a jury in Austin on Thursday ruled that Jones must pay more than $4 million in compensatory damages to two parents of a first-grader killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre after a judge earlier ruled that the Infowars founder defamed them with his frequent comments that they were crisis actors and that the mass shooting — in which 20 students and six teachers were gunned down at the school in Newtown, Connecticut — was staged as a pretext for gun control.
The pair had been seeking $150 million in damages. Jones’s attorneys argued that he should pay only $8 and he had said anything more than $2 million would “sink” his company.
A second phase of the trial will now commence in which the jury will hear evidence about Jones’s net worth and determine how much to award in punitive damages.
In tearful testimony, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of Sandy Hook victim Jesse Lewis, described how their lives had descended into a “living hell” in which they were confronted by strangers and sent death threats by fans of Jones. A forensic psychologist even testified they had endured a form of post-traumatic stress disorder akin to the constant trauma suffered by soldiers in war zones.
“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,” Heslin said.
In a remarkable moment on Tuesday, Lewis was able to speak directly to Jones from the witness stand, pleading with him to confront the depravity of his actions.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this — that we have to implore you, to punish you — to get you to stop lying,” Lewis said. “I am so glad this day is here. I’m actually relieved. And grateful… that I got to say all this to you.”
The legal and financial reckoning for one of America’s most loathsome conspiracy theorists began in 2018 when multiple families of Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the scene of the crime brought defamation charges against him and Infowars, the website he started in 1999.
For years, Jones tried to delay the trials by failing to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers. These actions eventually prompted courts to rule against him by default and begin a trial to determine damages — the first of which, for Heslin and Lewis, began on July 26.
For his part, Jones remained as evasive and deceitful as ever — even while under oath.
He had to be admonished twice by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble for lying on the stand that he had turned over pretrial information to the plaintiffs and that he was bankrupt. InfoWars’ parent company — not Jones — filed for federal bankruptcy protection last month, but that won’t be determined officially until a final hearing is held.
In one incredible moment on Wednesday, Mark Bankston, attorney for the parents, informed Jones that his lawyers had accidentally sent him the contents of Jones’s cellphone that revealed texts about Sandy Hook he had not turned over, as well as financial information about Infowars. Jones had previously testified that he had searched for texts about the massacre but was unable to find them.
Bankston said Thursday that the US House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol has requested those records.
While on the stand Wednesday, Jones sought to walk back his past claims about Sandy Hook. Having portrayed his trial as a fight for the First Amendment in which he had merely been asking questions about established narratives about mass tragedies, Jones finally conceded the school shooting had been real.
“It was [irresponsible]. Especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100% real,” he said. “[The media] won’t let me take it back. They just want to keep me in the position of being the Sandy Hook man.”
Within hours of the verdict, Jones was back in an InfoWars video, ranting about how he’d been treated in court and claiming the millions of dollars he’ll have to pay as a victory. He also made an appeal for viewers to keep giving him money.
“If you don’t fund us, if you don’t buy products in InfoWarsStore.com, we will shut down,” he said.