A Texas jury has ordered Infowars’ Alex Jones to pay $49.3million (£40.8million) in damages to the parents of a student killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, which the conspiracy theorist wrongly dubbed referred to as dizziness.
The amount is less than the $150 million (£124 million) demanded by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse Lewis was among 19 children and six educators killed in the deadliest classroom shooting in the history of the United States United States were killed.
The trial marks the first time Jones has been held financially liable for spreading lies about the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut.
The jury initially awarded Mr Heslin and Ms Lewis $4.1 million (£3.4 million) in damages in what Jones described as a big win.
But in the final stages of the two-week trial, the same Austin jury came back and added a further $45.2million (£37.4million) in punitive damages.
Punitive damages are designed to punish suspects for particularly egregious behavior that goes beyond monetary compensation awarded to those they injured.
A heavy sentence is also seen as an opportunity for juries to send a broader societal message and discourage others from doing the same in the future.
Lawyers for the family had asked the jury to issue a financial penalty that would put Infowars out of business.
“You have the ability to stop this man from ever doing it again,” Wesley Ball told the jury.
It’s unclear how much money Jones and Infowars parent company Free Speech Systems have.
An economist hired by the plaintiffs testified that Jones and the company are valued at up to $270 million (£224 million), suggesting Jones is still making money.
But Jones testified that any award over $2million (£1.6million) would “sink us”. Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy protection in the first week of negotiations.
Jones faces two other defamation lawsuits from Sandy Hook families in Texas and Connecticut.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/conspiracy-theorist-ordered-to-pay-40m-in-damages-over-school-massacre-claims-41893336.html Conspiracy theorist ordered to pay £40m in damages over school massacre claims