Sandy Hook parents: Alex Jones claims created 'living hell'
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Fighting back tears and finally given the chance to confront conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the parents of a 6-year-old killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting described being put through a “living hell” of death threats, harassment and ongoing trauma over the last decade caused by Jones using his media platforms to push claims that it was all a hoax. The parents led a day of charged testimony that included the judge scolding the bombastic Jones for not being truthful with some of what he said under oath.
A Texas jury punished conspiracy-peddler Alex Jones with a $45.2 million judgment Friday — just a day after awarding a family he defamed $4.1 million in damages.
The InfoWars host claimed after the 2012 mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that the massacre was in fact a hoax designed to drum up support for gun control advocates.
Jones, who was deemed culpable by reason of default after refusing to provide court-ordered records, admitted in testimony earlier this week that the killing of 20 children and six educators at the Newtown, Conn., school was in fact “100%” real. © Sergio Flores InfoWars founder Alex Jones interacts with supporters at the Texas State Capital building on April 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas.
InfoWars founder Alex Jones interacts with supporters at the Texas State Capital building on April 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Sergio Flores/)
On Friday, jurors in Austin, Texas, heard the plaintiff’s team claim Jones is worth between $135 million and $270 million and that the $4.1 million Jones was ordered to shell out Thursday would not impact the right-wing broadcaster “one bit,” nor would it deter him from continuing to disseminate dangerous misinformation.
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Jury deliberations are underway following a two-week trial marked by several dramatic moments and revelations.Jones has already been found liable for defamation in Texas and Connecticut due to making repeated false claims that the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut—the most deadly elementary school shooting in U.S. history—was a hoax. A second trial to determine damages in Connecticut was expected to begin following jury selection this week but has been delayed due to a last-minute bankruptcy filing for Jones' media company Free Speech System.
They had asked for $150 million initially, which their counsel argued was still the amount Jones should pay it total. Jurors were asked that “they don’t reward” Jones for pushing disinformation.
“He lied to make his money, he lies to keep his money,” attorney Wesley Todd Ball told the court.
Jones’ lawyer Federico Reynal contended Friday that Jones never instructed anyone to harass Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis — the latter of whom Jones never mentioned by name in his broadcasts. Questioning the plaintiff’s estimate of Jones’ worth, he asked that jurors “return a verdict that is proportionate” to the damage done by Jones.
Reynal also asked the 12 jurors to send the message “You will not be rewarded” to Jones’ critics, who he blames for making the trial a heated issue.
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Reynal also made mention of the “Clinton campaign,” which was objected to by the plaintiff’s team and sustained by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble. Ball accused the defense of presenting “alternative facts” to the jury.
Jurors deliberated for one full-day Thursday before awarding damages to Heslin and Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis, was one of the students fatally shot in his first-grade classroom. Plaintiff attorney Mark Bankston said after that $4.1 million was awarded to his clients for compensatory damages, Jones hadn’t finished paying for his actions.
“We aren’t done folks,” Bankston said Thursday. “We knew coming into this case it was necessary to shoot for the moon to get the jury to understand we were serious and passionate. After tomorrow, he’s going to owe a lot more.” © Provided by New York Daily News Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.
Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (Jessica Hill/)
Jones’ legal team, which conceded their client was “absolutely reckless in his coverage” of the Sandy Hook massacre had asked the jury to award the plaintiffs $8 in compensatory damages, which would have amounted to a dollar for each count against him.
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The 48-year-old conservative broadcaster is scheduled to return to court in August where further damages are expected to be rewarded in connection to two other Sandy Hook lawsuits. Further judgments could be complicated by the fact Jones’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, submitted a bankruptcy filing late last month.
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