An Austin jury decided Thursday that Infowars host Alex Jones must pay at least $4.1 million to the family of a 6-year-old who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting because he and his website and radio By spreading the word about the 2012 massacre.
Jesse, son of Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, died at school in Newtown, Conn., along with 19 of his classmates and six educators Seeking $150 million for defamation and willful emotional distress.
Jones’ attorney, who has repeatedly suggested the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, asked jurors to award Hesling and Lewis only $1.
The jury was only asked to decide whether Jones also had to pay Jesse’s parents for the emotional distress and reputational damage caused by his false claims, which the judge found liable for not turning over key evidence before the trial began. The jury will also decide whether to award punitive damages. The panel will hear testimony on the subject on Friday.
The trial included testimony from parents and Jones, who described the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights. After the shooting, which he claimed was fabricated, the Crisis actor included. He later admitted it happened.
His lawyer, Andino Reynal, argued that Jones paid for his mistakes by losing millions of followers after he was removed from the social media platform in 2018.
“He made a terrible mistake,” Reiner told jurors, referring to Jones. “This mistake was weaponized by the same political force that attacked Sandy Hook at the time.”
When the jury deliberated on Thursday, Reiner asked the trial to be invalid because his team accidentally sent the contents of Jones’ phone to lawyers for Hesling and Lewis. On Wednesday, attorneys for Hesling and Lewis used some of that information to point out inconsistencies in Jones’ testimony. The judge denied the request.
Hesling and Lewis testified Tuesday that Jones’ lies left them fearing for their own lives and exacerbated their grief.
“Having a 6-year-old son shot in front of his classroom is unbearable, you don’t think you’re going to survive, and then having someone continue to lie on top of that, saying it’s a hoax, that’s a false flag, “Lewis said directly to Jones during his testimony. “I don’t think you understand your long-standing fear, not only for the victim’s family, but for our family, our friends and any survivors of that school.”
The crux of the trial was a 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” in which Hesling appeared and challenged Jones’ denial of the shooting. “I was holding my son who had a bullet hole in his head,” Hesling said in the episode.
Jones and fellow Infowars host Owen Shroyer later suggested Heslin had lied.
Hesling and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families who have filed a lawsuit against Jones, arguing that his claims that the mass shooting was a hoax led to years of abuse by his followers.