AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — An Austin jury found Infowars host Alex Jones must pay more than $4 million to the family of Sandy Hook shooting victim over claims on the show the shooting was a hoax and parents were crisis actors.
The verdict, returned on Thursday, marks the first of two sums of money the jurors have been asked to calculate after hearing nearly two weeks of testimony in the case.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, who lost their 6-year-old son Jesse in the 2012 mass shooting, sued Jones for defamation and inflicting mental anguish. Jones was found liable by the court last year; the jury was tasked with coming up with the amount of actual damages he owes to compensate Heslin and Lewis.
The plaintiffs asked the jury to consider awarding $150 million — a dollar for each of the parents representing the 75 million Americans they say believed Sandy Hook was or could have been fake.
“We know that is a big verdict,” plaintiff’s attorney Mark Bankston said before the verdict was returned, “but we believe it is one that will speak volumes about the level of harm done in this case.”
Jones’ team argued the plaintiffs have not brought enough evidence to show Jones’ words caused their anguish or to justify that large of a sum.
“So much of their argument is all about punishment,” Jones’ attorney Andino Reynal said. “I am going to talk to you guys about punishment when the time comes. Right now, I am going to talk to you guys about actual damages.”
Jones and his team are bracing for a second verdict with additional, punitive damages — likely to be returned later this week. Plaintiff’s attorneys said they will bring a financial expert to testify before the jury is given their second charge.
This is a developing story.