Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay $49.3M total over Sandy Hook hoax claims

Now Alex Jones is paying the price for his lies, ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman reports

A Texas jury has ordered US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $49.3 million (£40.84m) in total damages to the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

The final sum handed down Friday includes $45.2 million in punitive damages and $4.1 million in compensatory damages.

The parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis say they were tormented by the Infowars host’s false claims that the worst classroom shooting in US history was a hoax orchestrated by the government to tighten gun laws.

Attorneys for the family had urged jurors for a financial punishment that would put Infowars out of business. One economist testified that Jones and his company were worth up to $270 million.

It is the first time the Infowars founder has been held financially liable for his repeated claims that the deadliest school shooting in US history was a hoax.

Twenty children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.

The case was brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was killed in the massacre.

Neil Heslin holds a picture of him and his son Jesse. Credit: AP

They testified earlier this week about the decade of trauma they had endured, inflicted first by Jesse's murder and then by threats and harassment, which they said were fuelled by Jones and the conspiracy he spread to his followers on his alt-right website Infowars.

Jones - who was not in court when the outcome was announced - has claimed repeatedly that Sandy Hook was staged by the government to strip Americans of their gun ownership rights, calling the parents of the dead children 'crisis actors.'

He has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment right to free speech, but admitted during the trial that the attack was “100% real” and that he was wrong to have lied about it.

But Jesse's parents told jurors an apology wouldn't suffice and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he has put them and other Sandy Hook families through.

A forensic psychiatrist testified that the parents suffer from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” inflicted by ongoing trauma, similar to what might be experienced by a soldier at war or a child abuse victim.

Families of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. Credit: AP

Jones was the only witness to testify in his defence, and he only attended the trial sporadically while still appearing on his show.

He came under withering attack from the parents' lawyers under cross-examination, as they reviewed his video claims about Sandy Hook over the years, and accused him of lying and trying to hide evidence, including text messages and emails about the attack.

It also included internal emails sent by an Infowars employee that said “this Sandy Hook stuff is killing us.”

At one point, Jones was told his attorneys had mistakenly sent Mark Bankston, the family's lawyer, the last two years’ worth of texts from his phone.

And shortly after the conspiracist declared “I don’t use email,” Jones was shown one that came from his address, and another one from an Infowars business officer telling Jones that the company had earned $800,000 from selling its products in a single day, which would amount to nearly $300 million in a year.

Infowars' parent company filed for bankruptcy during the two-week trial.

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