Austin, Texas , a jury of Texas Infowars ordered to pay radio host Alex Jones $49.3 million in damages Friday To the parents of a first-grade boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Jones falsely described the shooting as a farce by the government to toughen US gun laws.
That amount is less than the $150 million requested by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, was one of 19 children and six teachers who died in the deadliest classroom shooting in American history. ,
This is the first time Jones has been fined for spreading lies about the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut attack.
The jurors initially awarded $4.1 million in damages to Heslin and Lewis., which Jones called a great victory. But in the final phase of the trial, which lasted two weeks, the same Austin jury added $45.2 million in punitive damages.
Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants for particularly serious conduct, which goes beyond the monetary compensation paid to those they have caused harm. High punitive damages are also seen as an opportunity to send a wider social message to jurors and a way to deter others from avoiding the same heinous behavior in the future.
The family’s lawyers had urged jurors to impose a financial penalty that would put Infowars out of business.
Wesley Ball, the parent’s attorney, told the jury, “You have the ability to stop this guy from doing this again.”
It’s not clear how much money Jones or InfoWars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, owes.
An economist hired by the plaintiffs testified that Jones and company were worth up to $270 million.
But Jones testified that more than $2 million in damage would “overwhelm us.” And Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy within the first week of the trial.
Jones still faces two other defamation lawsuits from the Sandy Hook families in Texas and Connecticut.