September 28, 2022


A Texas jury has awarded the parents of one of the victims of the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting more than $4 million in the damages lawsuit against “Infowars” host Alex Jones. The conspiracy theorist and far-right broadcaster had earlier been found responsible defamation in a default judgment issued by District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble for his false claims The 2012 filming has been a “hoax” in repeated comments over the past decade.

Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was one of 20 children and six adults killed during the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, sued Jones and his media company, Free Speech Systems, in 2018. The pair initially sought at least $150 million in damages. Jurors first voted to determine how much of that Jones should be ordered to pay, and came up with more than $4 million. They will deliberate again to decide whether to give Heslin and Lewis an additional award for punitive damages and, if so, what that figure will be.

Judge Guerra Gamble, who presided over the defamation lawsuits brought against Jones in Texas, issued a rare absent decisions last fall that found Jones and Infowars liable for defamation and emotional distress. The judge’s orders cited the harassment suffered by Heslin, Lewis and other families of Sandy Hook victims at the hands of Jones’ followers as a direct result of his claims about the shooting, in addition to “gross bad faith and reckless contempt.” the accused. court proceedings throughout the hearings.

Alex Jones enters the courtroom
Alex Jones enters the courtroom in front of Scarlett Lewis and Neal Heslin, the parents of 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis, at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, on July 28, 2022.

BRIANA SANCHEZ/POOL


The Sandy Hook tragedy remains one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history. Jones acknowledged in court Wednesday that he knows “It’s 100% real.”

But for years Jones claimed the shooting was “staged,” a “false flag” concocted to increase gun control, with “crisis agents” purportedly impersonating grieving family members of the victims. He posted these claims on his website Infowars, which features stories and videos promoting outlandish conspiracy theories and is widely considered a “fake news” machine. The site has published, and in several cases retracted, a number of blatantly false stories beyond those related to the Sandy Hook massacre. Jones has faced multiple lawsuits — including some filed by other families of Sandy Hook victims — as well as allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment.

Court records show Jones made more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018 selling items like survival gear and nutritional supplements to Infowars.

Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company based in Austin, Texas, filed for federal bankruptcy protection Last week. On Tuesday, Jones was reprimanded by the judge in court for telling jurors that he had complied with pretrial evidence-gathering protocols and that he was bankrupt, the latter of which had yet to be determined.

Jones lost several defamation cases by default last year. Lawsuits filed by families of Sandy Hook victims in Texas and Connecticut allege that Jones’ characterization of the shooting as a “giant hoax” led to years of abuse from his followers. A group of families involved in a lawsuit additionally accused him of diverting funds from Free Speech Systems before the bankruptcy filing.

And Heslin and Lewis took the witness stand at Austin’s trial this week and testified about how Jones’ efforts to spread lies about the mass shooting made their lives “a living hell.” The parents said those who believed the conspiracy and his claims about Sandy Hook continued to harass and threaten them verbally and physically. They recalled people shooting at their home and car and sending them threatening emails.

Alex Jones lawsuit for defamation
Scarlett Lewis, mother of 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Jessie Lewis, appears in court for the trial of Alex Jones, in Austin, Texas, on August 2, 2022.

Briana Sanchez/Pool via REUTERS


“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Heslin said.

“It’s fear for your life,” Lewis said. “You don’t know what they would do.”

Jones appeared in court Tuesday, allowing plaintiffs to address him in person.

“I wanted to tell you to your face … I’m a mother, first and foremost, and I know you’re a father. And my son existed,” Lewis said, referring to Jones’ comments to Infowars that he was an actor facing some kind of government shape. As Lewis noted, Jones seemed to continue pushing the idea in his series of speeches just this morning before closing arguments.

“You’re still on your show today trying to say that, implying that I’m an actor, that I’m deep state. You have, this week. And I don’t understand,” Lewis told Jones. “The truth – the truth is so vital to our world. The truth is what we base our reality on, and we have to agree on that to have a civil society. Sandy Hook is a hard truth.”

“Jessie was real. I’m a real mom,” she said. “… I know you do, and that’s the problem.”

The Associated Press contributed to the report.



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