Jurors weigh punitive damages in Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation trial

Aug 5 (Reuters) – Jurors in Texas on Friday were deliberating on how much Alex Jones should pay in punitive damages to the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting for falsely claiming that the massacre was staged.

The parents of slain 6-year-old Jesse Lewis are seeking $145.9 million in punitive damages for the broadcaster’s falsehoods about the killing of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.

“We ask that you send a very, very simple message, and that is: stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies,” Wesley Todd Ball, a lawyer for the parents, told jurors before they began deliberations.

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An attorney for Jones, Federico Andino Reynal, asked jurors to return a verdict of $270,000 based on the number of hours Infowars devoted to Sandy Hook coverage.

The 12-person jury on Thursday said Jones must pay the parents $4.1 million in compensatory damages for spreading conspiracy theories about the massacre. That verdict followed a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, where Jones’ radio show and webcast Infowars are based.

Earlier on Friday, forensic economist Bernard Pettingill testified on behalf of Lewis’ parents that Jones “promulgated some hate speech and some misinformation” and “made a lot of money.”

Jones and Infowars are worth between $135 million and $270 million combined, Pettingill said.

Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis testified that Jones’ followers harassed them for years in the false belief that the parents lied about their son’s death.

Jones sought to distance himself from the conspiracy theories during his testimony, apologizing to the parents and acknowledging that Sandy Hook was “100% real.”

Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems LLC, declared bankruptcy last week. Jones said during a Monday broadcast that the filing will help the company stay on the air while it appeals.

The bankruptcy declaration paused a similar defamation suit by Sandy Hook parents in Connecticut where, as in Texas, he has already been found liable.

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Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Howard Goller and Mark Porter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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