Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay $4.11 million in defamation damages for falsely claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, a Texas jury said on Thursday after deliberating for a full day in Travis County.
Jones, the radio and web host of InfoWars, asserted the massacre was fabricated, endearing him to conspiracy theorists and hardline gun owner rights advocates.
Ten jurors agreed on the damages amount, which was spread out over several juror questions.
While on the stand this week, Jones admitted that the school shooting was “100% real” during his second day providing testimony. He also conceded that it was irresponsible of him to declare that the school shooting was a hoax.
The trial was heated at times, with Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the 459th District Court in Travis County telling Jones that he couldn’t lie to the jury during his first day of testimony.
“You may not say to the jury that you’ve complied with discovery, that isn’t true,” Gamble told Jones. “You may not tell the jury that you’re bankrupt.”
During cross-examination, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston said Jones hadn’t complied with discovery. He also noted that Jones’ defense team had accidentally sent him a record of previously requested text messages from the past two years only recently.
“That’s how I know you lied to me,” said Bankston, who said Jones had claimed he had no Sandy Hook texts on his phone.
In a emergency motion hearing Thursday morning, Jones’ attorney Andino Reynal asked the judge to for a protective order on all of those documents, including 2.3 gigabytes worth of materials that his legal assistant accidentally sent to opposing counsel.
Bankston contended that the motion was frivolous and revealed that the Jan. 6 Committee asked him to turn over the text messages. Unless the judge seals the records, Bankston said he would turn them over.
Gamble denied the motion—and an accompanying motion for a mistrial—to immediately seal the information “without knowing what’s in it” and offered to give Reynal time to identify specific materials he wanted sealed.
Sandy Hook Parents
The defamation case was brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
They testified earlier Tuesday about the emotional pain and distress they have had to deal with due to Jones’ falsehoods over their death of their son.
“The way that you have impacted so many lives, there has to be some accountability for that,” Lewis said to Jones while on the stand.
In the week-and-a-half trial, lawyers for both parents and Jones made their case in front of jurors in a post-default-judgment trial to determine how much he must pay for spreading lies that the massacre never happened.
The court already determined in a 2021 default judgment that Jones was liable for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Jones will face a similar proceeding later that will determine punitive damages.
The parents have sought $150 million in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Farrar & Ball LLP represented the parents. Reynal Law Firm PC represented Jones.
The case is Heslin v. Jones, Tex. Dist. Ct., No. D-1-GN-18-001835, 8/4/22.