Alex Jones, the broadcaster of the US radio show Infowars, was ordered to pay US$49.3 million (more than R$250 million) for saying on the air that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, which left 20 children and 6 adults killed, it was a hoax fabricated by the US government.
The parents of one of the victims who filed the case in court. He had asked for US$150 million for defamation against Alex Jones, founder of the Infowars website.
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The lawsuit was filed by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the school massacre. Relatives claim they experienced emotional pain over the lie spread by Jones.
The trial took place in Austin, Texas.
Alex Jones outside the courthouse in Austin on August 2, 2022 — Photo: Briana Sanchez/Reuters
Lies about government frame
Jones has repeatedly claimed that the massacre was a hoax organized by the government to restrict Americans’ access to guns. He invented that the parents of the dead children were actors.
Initially, jurors awarded Heslin and Lewis $4.1 million in damages. Jones called this figure a big win. In the final phase of the trial, however, the same Austin jury added an additional $45.2 million in punitive damages.
Earlier this week, Jones testified that anything over $2 million would “sink” his company Free Speech Systems, which is the parent company of Infowars, has entered bankruptcy protection.
The penalty is intended to punish the defendant for his conduct, in addition to compensating the victims. Higher punishment is also seen as a chance for jurors to deliver a broader social message and a way to deter others from the same conduct in the future.
Lawyers for the family asked jurors to force Infowars out of business.