An Austin jury has ordered conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones to pay more than $45 million in punitive damages to the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting for spreading the lie that the parents had helped stage the massacre.
The case has been described as one of the most important defamation lawsuits in a generation, while the Kaster, Lynch, Farrar & Ball team’s courtroom performance will be studied for years to come.
People Magazine: The far-right personality was found liable for spreading baseless and inflammatory statements about the massacre, calling the mass shooting “a giant hoax. At the time, Jones told the millions who watch his show and visit his site that it was a “false flag” operation staged by crisis actors posing as grieving parents to strengthen gun control laws.
Perry Mason Moment
National news accounts described a withering attack by lead trial lawyer Mark Bankston that caught Jones in his deceptions and attempts to hide evidence. A cross-examination of Jones culminated in what Jones himself described as a “Perry Mason moment” in which Bankston impeached Jones with text messages inadvertently supplied by his own defense lawyers. The dramatic exchange made national news.
“Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cellphone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years?” the parents’ lawyer, Mark Bankston, asked Mr. Jones. The text messages were significant because Mr. Jones had claimed for years that he had searched his phone for texts about the Sandy Hook cases and found none. “You know what perjury is, right?” Mr. Bankston asked Mr. Jones, who indicated that he did.
And shortly after Jones declared “I don’t use email,” Jones was shown one that came from his address, and another one from an Infowars business officer telling Jones that the company had earned $800,000 gross in selling its products in a single day, which would amount to nearly $300 million in a year.
“Above the Law” described an exchange between Infowars sidekick Owen Shroyer and Kyle Farrar:
In a spectacular act of cruelty, Shroyer took a “story” from an anonymous internet source to suggest that Heslin was lying when he told Kelly he’d held his dead son in his arms. Based on a snippet of video from the coroner explaining that the bodies were so riddled with machine gun fire that he’d opted to allow the parents to identify their children by photograph rather than in-person, Shroyer inferred that the state had confiscated the bodies and never returned them to the parents at all.
“You would remember if you held your dead kid in your hands with a bullet hole, that’s not something you forget,” Shroyer said gleefully in the broadcast, played multiple times for the jury.
“I could have done a better job,” Shroyer conceded.
“You could have done a job,” Farrar shot back.
When Shroyer protested that he was live on air when the story came to him and didn’t have time to check it, Farrar pounced.
“Is ‘I didn’t have time’ an excuse for defamation?” he demanded.
Shroyer conceded it was not.
In closing arguments, Wes Ball asked jurors to “stop the monetization of misinformation and lies.”
Mr. Jones lost four defamation cases last year that were filed against him by the families of 10 victims of the shooting, which killed 20 first graders and six educators.
Mr. Jones lost those cases by default, after nearly four years of litigation in which he failed to produce documents and testimony ordered by courts in Texas and Connecticut. That set in motion three trials for damages; the one in Austin this week is the first.