Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to pay $4.11 million (£3.38 million) in compensatory damages to the family of a Sandy Hook victim.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse was among 20 students and six adults killed in the mass shooting, sued Jones and his media company over allegations he made that the massacre was a “false flag” operation. . and that the victims did not really exist.
They have sought $150 million in compensatory damages and another judgment to determine punitive damages is expected to take place on Friday.
At the heart of the 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 shootings in US history.
What happened at Sandy Hook and how did Alex Jones get involved?
Adam Lanza, 20, heavily armed, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 after shooting his mother and unleashing unimaginable carnage that killed 20 children and six adults.
Despite the human toll that haunted the city of Newtown, Connecticut, within hours of the bloodshed, Alex Jones began falsely claiming 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 claimed that the mass shooting and murder of 20 children never took place.
And he even claimed that the grieving six- and seven-year-olds never existed.
The Infowars host told his audience that the violence was in fact a “false flag” operation designed by the government to bring in stricter gun control laws and take away Second Amendment rights.
He claimed the event was “staged” and “completely fake”, performed by “actors” as a “giant farce”. Their conspiracy theories began less than two hours after the December 14, 2012 mass shooting.
“There are reports of a school shooting in Connecticut – one of the states that has draconian restrictions on gun ownership … The media will exaggerate this,” he told his listeners.
“Why do governments stage these things? To take our weapons!”
And so it continued for the next decade, continually claiming that the shooting was “staged” and “completely false”, carried out by “actors” as a “giant hoax”.
What Happened After Alex Jones Called Sandy Hook a “Sham”?
The families who had their world destroyed by Adam Lanza have finally had enough.
In 2018, a total of 10 families of victims filed four defamation suits in Texas – where Infowars is based – and Connecticut against Jones and Infowars for their false allegations.
And in 2021, judges in all defamation cases ruled that Jones was guilty by default as he failed to provide the necessary evidence.
Jones was due to testify under oath in March as part of an effort to resolve the case, but his agents tried to delay it, claiming he was “too sick” to participate.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis turned down his requests for a stay, stating he looked well enough to film his Infowars show, and he defied court orders to appear.
The circus then moved to Austin, Texas, where a Travis County jury was asked to decide how much Jones will have to pay Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis.
His six-year-old son, Jesse, was among 20 children and six adults massacred by the gunman.
What happened during the defamation trial?
Jones evaded Heslin’s testimony, but was confronted directly in court by Lewis, who told the court that his son had taken nine children to safety before he was shot in the head.
“Jesse was real,” Lewis told Jones as he sat in court in Travis County, Texas, as she testified on Tuesday. “I am a real mother.”
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 are a father,” Lewis told Jones.
“And my son existed. You’re still on your show today, trying to say that I’m – insinuating – that I’m an actress. That I am ‘Deep State’. You have. This week. And I do not understand.
She went on to tell Jones that even he didn’t believe his own outrageous statements about the shooting.
“I’m not from the deep state…I know you know this…I know you believe me, but you’re going to leave this courtroom and say it again on your show,” she said. “Do you have the ability to put yourself in my shoes? Do you have empathy?”
At one point, Mrs. Lewis asked Jones if he really thought she was an actress.
“Having a six-year-old with a gunshot to the forehead in your classroom is unbearable. And then having someone on top of it perpetuating a lie that it was a hoax, that it didn’t happen, that it was a false flag, that I was an actress — do you think I’m an actress?”
“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” he replied before the judge scolded him and told him to be quiet.
What did Alex Jones say in his testimony?
During his own testimony, Jones promoted his supplement business while at the booth and bragged about the quality of the product he sold at Infowars.
He even told the jury that his company made $165 million from supplements on the site.
At the beginning of his testimony, Jones apologized to his parents. “I never intentionally tried to hurt you, I never said your name until we got to court,” he said.
He was then reprimanded by the judge in the case for telling the jury that he had complied with pre-trial evidence collection, although he did 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 don’t make something true. You are under oath.”
And during his testimony, he finally admitted that the massacre was “100% real.”
“Especially since I met the parents. It’s 100% real,” Jones said.
During the last day of deposition, the family’s attorney surprisingly informed Jones that his own attorney had accidentally sent two years of his text messages.
Jones claimed during the discovery that he could not find any Sandy Hook-related text messages on his phone, but denied that he had lied under oath.