Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to pay $4.11 million in restitution to the family of a Sandy Hook victim.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse was among the 20 students and six adults killed in the mass shooting, sued Jones and his media company over claims he made that the massacre was an operation of “fake flag”. and that the victims did not actually exist.
They had sought $150 million in damages, and another trial to determine punitive damages is now expected to take place on Friday.
At the heart of Alex Jones’ defamation case is a decade-long tragedy for the families who lost young children and loved ones in one of the worst school massacres in US history.
What happened at Sandy Hook and how was Alex Jones involved?
Heavily armed Adam Lanza, 20, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 after shooting and killing his mother and unleashing an unimaginable massacre that killed 20 children and six adults.
Despite the human toll that haunted the town of Newtown, Connecticut, within hours of the bloodshed, Alex Jones began to falsely claim that, despite all evidence to the contrary, a massacre that stunned the world was not real.
As families were left to bury their young children in tiny coffins, Jones declared that the mass shooting and killing of 20 children never happened.
And he even claimed that the grieving six- and seven-year-olds never existed.
The Infowars host told his audience that the violence was actually a “false flag” operation designed by the government to enforce stricter gun control laws and take away Second Amendment rights.
He claimed the event was “staged” and “completely fake”, staged by “actors” as a “giant hoax”. His conspiracy theories began less than two hours after the mass shooting on December 14, 2012.
“There’s a reported school shooting in Connecticut — one of the states that has draconian gun restrictions … The media is going to hype the living daylights out of this,” he told his listeners.
“Why do governments stage these things? To take our weapons!’
And so he continued for the next decade, constantly claiming that the shooting was “staged” and “totally fake”, staged by “actors” as a “giant hoax”.
What happened after Alex Jones called Sandy Hook a “hoax”?
The families who had their world destroyed by Adam Lanza have finally arrived.
In 2018, a total of 10 victims’ families filed four defamation lawsuits in Texas – where Infowars is based – and Connecticut against Mr. Jones and Infowars for his false claims.
And in 2021, the judges in all the defamation cases ruled that Jones was guilty by default because he did not provide the required evidence.
Jones was due to testify under oath in March as part of an effort to settle the case, but his layers tried to delay it, claiming he was too “sick” to participate.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis denied his requests for a delay, saying he appeared well enough to film his Infowars show and defied court orders to appear.
The circus then moved to Austin, Texas, where a Travis County jury was asked to decide how much Jones should pay Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis.
Their six-year-old son, Jesse, was among 20 children and six adults slaughtered by the gunman.
What happened during the libel trial?
Jones avoided Heslin’s testimony but was confronted directly in court by Ms Lewis, who told the court her son had led nine children to safety before he was shot in the head.
“Jesse was real,” Ms. Lewis told Jones as she sat in the courtroom in Travis County, Texas, as she testified Tuesday. “I’m a real mom.”
She added: “I wanted to tell you to your face, because I wanted you to know that I am a mother, first and foremost. I know you’re a father,” Lewis told Jones.
“And my son was there. You’re still on your show, today, trying to say that I’m — implying — that I’m an actor. That I am “Deep State”. You have. This week. And I don’t understand.
He went on to tell Jones that even he didn’t believe his own wild accounts of the shooting.
“I’m not in a deep state…I know you know that…I know you believe me, yet you’re going to walk out of this room and say it again on your show,” he said. “Do you have the ability to step into my shoes? Do you have empathy?’
At one point, Ms. Lewis asked Jones if he really thought he was an actor.
“For a six-year-old son to be shot in the forehead in his classroom is unbearable. … And then to have someone on top of that perpetuate a lie that it was a hoax, that it didn’t happen, that it was a false flag, that I was an actor — You think I’m an actor?”
“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” he replied before being admonished by the judge and told to remain quiet.
What did Alex Jones say in his deposition?
During his own deposition, Jones promoted his supplement business while on the stand and boasted about the quality of the product he sold to Infowars.
He even told the jury that his company had earned $165 million from supplements on the site.
At the beginning of his testimony, Jones apologized to the parents. “I never intentionally tried to hurt you, I never said your name until we ended up in court,” he said.
He was then reprimanded by the judge in the case for telling jurors he had complied with the collection of evidence, even though he had not and that he is bankrupt, which has yet to be decided.
“This is not your show,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs do not make something true. You are under oath.”
And during his testimony, he finally admitted that the massacre was “100 percent real.”
“Especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100 percent real,” Jones said.
During the final day of testimony, the family’s attorney surprisingly informed Jones that his own attorney had accidentally sent them two years of his text messages.
Jones had claimed during discovery that he couldn’t find text messages about Sandy Hook on his phone, but denied lying under oath.