Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to cover $4.1m (3.3m) in damages after falsely claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.
The parents of a victim have sought at the very least $150m in the Texas defamation trial contrary to the Infowars founder.
They said they endured harassment and emotional distress due to the right-wing host’s misinformation.
Twenty children and six adults were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The jury in the town of Austin decided compensatory damages on Thursday, and must still determine any punitive damages.
Jones – who was simply not in court once the outcome was announced – has repeatedly argued that the shooting was a hoax organised by the federal government to be able to strip Americans of gun ownership rights, and that the parents of the dead children were “crisis actors”.
He’s got already lost a number of defamation cases brought by parents of the victims automagically after failing woefully to produce documents and testimony.
But this is actually the first where financial damages were agreed by way of a jury.
The case was brought by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the separated parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the institution shooting.
Before Thursday’s decision, an attorney for the plaintiffs revealed that Jones’ lawyer had inadvertently sent him 2 yrs of texts from his client’s phone.
The attorney said a congressional panel investigating last year’s US Capitol riot had already requested usage of the messages. The committee has said Jones helped organise a rally that occurred right before the riot.
Despite retracting his claims about Sandy Hook, Jones has continued to utilize his platform to attack jurors and the judge in this instance.
He also claimed he was bankrupt despite evidence that his companies were earning about $800,000 each day selling diet supplements, gun paraphernalia and survivalist equipment.
Through the emotionally charged two-week trial, Jones portrayed the case being an attack on his free speech rights beneath the First Amendment of the united states Constitution.
“Speech is free, but lies you need to purchase,” lawyers for the families countered within their opening arguments.
Testifying on Wednesday, Jones acknowledged the Sandy Hook attack was “100% real” and apologised for having “hurt these people’s feelings”.
However in her testimony, Mrs Lewis addressed Jones in court, saying: “Jesse was real I’m a genuine mom.”
She continued to say this is “incredible if you ask me that people have to get this done”.
“That people need to implore you – not only implore you, punish you – to make you stop lying,” she continued, adding: “It really is surreal the proceedings in here.”
Mr Heslin said that Jones’ lies “tarnished the honour and legacy” of his son, adding he had opted through nearly 10 years of “hell” because the attack.
In accordance with lawyers for the parents, these were forced to employ private security for the trial out of concern that followers of Jones could seek to harm them.
One forensic psychiatrist testified that the parents were experiencing “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” much like what battlefield soldiers or victims of child abuse endure.
Lawyers for the parents accused Jones of attempting to hide evidence, and argued he had committed perjury when he denied sending messages linked to the Sandy Hook attack.
Jones’ Infowars parent company, Free Speech Systems LLC, declared bankruptcy the other day. The outlet has been banned by YouTube, Spotify and Twitter for hate speech, but continues to use.
Other wild conspiracies pushed by Jones include that the government is creating floods and tornados as “weather weapons” and that chemicals in normal water are making frogs homosexual.
Lawyer Mark Banston, who represented the parents in the event, told reporters outside court on Thursday that his clients weren’t disappointed with the sum awarded by the jury.
“We aren’t done folks,” the attorney was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
“We knew getting into this case it had been necessary to aim for the moon to obtain the jury to comprehend we were serious and passionate. After tomorrow, he’ll owe much more.”