Far-right Alex Jones has been fined 50 million for claiming the Sandy Hook massacre was a theatre

Far-right Alex Jones has been fined 50 million for claiming the Sandy Hook massacre was a theatre

Cover of the Alex Jones Show Twitter account.Cover of the Twitter account of the Alex Jones show ERIC BARADAT (AFP)

The Texas justice system has put a price on disinformation in a historic ruling that could set a precedent for future cases of manipulation, defamation and defamation in the United States. Conspiracy theorist and conspicuous right-wing extremist Alex Jones was fined $45.2 million this Friday for denying the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, in which a majority of 26 people died ten years ago students died. Jones, host and creator of the InfoWars podcast, claimed for years that it was all a hoax and that the fatalities were actors simulating the massacre.

Denounced by the parents of one of the children, an Austin (Texas) court had already sentenced him this Thursday to pay the couple 4.1 million in damages in the first of the cases sentenced to conviction. Also revealed during the trial was the concealment behind shell companies of Jones’ colossal fortune worth between $135 million and $270 million, obtained thanks to the followers of disinformation and fake news he spread on his InfoWars channel, at the time one of the most active in the field of alternative law.

A 12-member jury on Thursday sentenced Jones to pay Neil Heslin and Scarlet Lewis, parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, $4 million for spreading conspiracy theories about the murder of the 20 minors and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School , committed on December 14, 2012 by Adam Lanza, who had previously killed his mother to clear obstacles and who took his own life after the massacre.

The demonstration of the vast fortune hoarded by Jones, the court pointed out, prompted the jury to extend the sentence by the million-euro penalty (in US legal terminology, punitive damages announced today are equivalent to a fine or penalty, while punitive damages claims imposed yesterday are intended to compensate the victims, in this case the parents, for their loss or damage). The verdict ends a two-week summary trial in Austin, where Jones aired his radio show and Infowars website.

It was also Heslin and Lewis who demanded the fine, not just compensation of 4 million in moral damages for the loss of their son, although they were demanding 150 million. The couple hired a financial expert to unravel the web of partnerships Jones used to hide his fortune. To avoid material redress, Jones’ company Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy last week, a procedure very common in the United States to avoid paying a fine or a court hearing, or both, see the National Rifle Association (RNA) cases or Purdue Pharma, the largest drug company implicated in the opioid crisis.

Heslin and Lewis testified at the trial that Jones supporters harassed them for years, convinced by the network that they were lying about their son’s death for political reasons. Jones attempted to distance himself from conspiracy theories in his testimony, assuming, as he had done for the past few months, and also as his main line of defense, that what happened at the Sandy Hook School was “100% real.” be. His lawyer also assumed before the jury on Wednesday that Infowars had “irresponsibly” reported on the massacre, but insisted in defense that his client could not be held responsible for the actions of his supporters. The private attorney general’s attorney accused Jones of profiting from the child’s death in terms of viewership and revenue for his channel.

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The bankruptcy declaration isn’t just a maneuver to buy time, judging by the expressed intentions of Jones, who told his listeners during a live broadcast Monday that the submission of the filing will allow the company to stay on the air while it is appealing the decision of the Austin court. That is, not even a hint as to the purpose of the change, although the case ordered against him by Jesse’s parents is not the only one. The bankruptcy filing allowed him to stop a similar defamation lawsuit brought by the parents of another death in Connecticut, where, like in Texas, Jones was found liable for defamation.

Amid the primary, with positive winds for many Republican candidates who once contested, and in some cases still contest, Joe Biden’s November 2020 election victory, the legal setback for Jones could set a precedent, or at least serve as a warning against baseless theories such as the Sandy Hook Theater or Donald Trump’s election theft by his rival Biden. Or the insane speech of the opponents of vaccination, which Jones also actively spread.

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