Jury finds US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay $5.6m for Sandy Hook hoax claims

AUSTIN, TEXAS (REUTERS) – US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre at least US$4.1 million (S$5.6 million) for falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax, a Texas jury said on Thursday (Aug 4).

The verdict followed a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, where Jones’ radio show and webcast Infowars are based.

The 12-person jury will next consider the parents’ request for as much as US$75 million in punitive damages from Jones for spreading falsehoods about the killing of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec 14, 2012.

Those deliberations are expected to begin on Friday.

Jurors could still award the parents a large punitive damages verdict if they think Jones’ conduct was not highly damaging but still worthy of punishment, legal experts said.

“We are very pleased with the verdict, and we are looking forward to the punitive damages phase that starts tomorrow,” Mr Kyle Farrar, an attorney for the parents, said in an email.

Lawyers for Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trial consultant Jill Huntley Taylor said it is not uncommon for a jury to award higher punitive damages than compensatory ones.

“If jurors’ motivation for an award is their anger at the defendant, then they often award a bigger punitive damage number,” she said in an interview.

Mr Neil Heslin and Ms Scarlett Lewis, separated parents of slain six-year-old Jesse Lewis, testified that Jones’ followers harassed them and sent them death threats for years in the false belief that the parents were lying about their son’s death.

During closing arguments on Wednesday, Mr Farrar urged jurors to end what he called their nightmare and hold Jones accountable for profiting off their son’s death.

‘100 per cent real’

Mr Federico Reynal, an attorney for Jones, acknowledged during his closing argument that Jones and Infowars reported “irresponsibly” on Sandy Hook but said his client was not responsible for the harassment.

Jones previously claimed that the mainstream media and gun-control activists conspired to fabricate the Sandy Hook tragedy and that the shooting was staged using crisis actors.

Disclaimer: This report is automatically generated from worldwide news services. NTN is not responsible for its content and does not moderate it.

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