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AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas jury awarded conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Thursday to the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting More than $4 million in damages, this is the first time he has been held financially responsible. By spreading lies to slander the victims’ parents, claiming they were complicit in a government conspiracy to plan the shooting, as a pretext for gun control.

The decision is the first in a series of potential awards for Mr Jones. On Friday, a jury will consider evidence of Mr Jones’ net worth to determine how much, if any, punitive damages to be awarded to parents Scarlett Lewis and Neil Hesling.

Two other trials in which Sandy Hook’s parents are seeking compensation from Mr Jones are scheduled for next month but may be delayed after his company filed for bankruptcy last week.

Mr. Jones has increasingly become a symbol of how misinformation and false narratives are gaining traction in American society. He has been instrumental in spreading some of the most harmful conspiracy theories in recent history, such as Pizzagate — in which an Infowars video helped inspire a gunman to attack a Washington, D.C. pizza place — as well as coronavirus myths and “stop the stealing” lies about electoral fraud ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The sentencing came after days of emotional testimony, including 90 Minutes on Tuesday, in which Ms Lewis addressed Mr Jones in person, asking why he was deliberately spreading lies about the death of her six-year-old child Jesse, Jesse and 19 others The people first died were graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Jesse was a real boy. I was a real mum,” Ms Lewis told Mr Jones. She later admonished him: “Alex, I want you to hear this. We are more polarized than ever as a nation. Some of it is because of you.”

But the most explosive revelations came on Wednesday, when the family’s lawyer, Mark Bankston, revealed that Mr Jones’ legal team had mistakenly sent him the full contents of Mr Jones’ phone, including those of at least two years of interest now. Guilty SMS House committee investigates attack on Capitol. The committee is examining Mr Jones’ role in planning the events surrounding the uprising, and Mr Bankston is now seeking approval from a judge to make the transcript available to prosecutors and the January 6 committee.

Ms Lewis and Mr Hesling are seeking $150 million in damages, and Mr Bankston said he was optimistic about the jury’s verdict on Friday. “As you can imagine, if the jury awarded these plaintiffs more than $4 million in compensatory damages, I think the penalty could be in that range or higher,” Mr. Bankston said. “I think it’s entirely predictable that we’ll see a more than nine-figure verdict against Mr Jones.”

He added: “It’s been a long journey to be able to turn around and look at my client and say, ‘It’s great that he can’t get away with this. He can’t. You have a defendant walking into that courtroom and saying, ‘I think I should pay them a dollar. “This jury said no.”

Mr Jones said in his bankruptcy filing that he has so far paid $15 million in legal fees for the Sandy Hook lawsuit. Citing the damages demanded by Ms Lewis and Mr Hessling, Mr Jones said the award was a “major victory” in a video posted to Infowars on Thursday night, although he urged viewers to buy from his website to avoid it happening What he described as a financial crisis.

“I admit I was wrong,” he said. “I admit it was a mistake. I admit I followed false information, but not on purpose. I apologise to the family. The jury understands that.”

Mr Jones tacitly lost a series of Sandy Hook defamation lawsuits last year after repeatedly failing to provide court-ordered documents and testimony. The rulings set the stage for a trial this summer.

More important than money, the Sandy Hook family says, is society’s judgment on a culture where viral misinformation kills lives and damages reputations.

“Speech is free, but lies you have to pay,” Bankston told the jury last week. “It’s a case about creating change.”

At the heart of the trial was a June 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night with Meghan Kelly” which depicted Mr Jones. On the radio, Mr Hesling protested Mr Jones’ denial of the shooting. He recalled his final moments with Jesse, saying: “I was holding my son who had a bullet hole in his head.”

Afterwards, Mr Jones and Infowars host Owen Shroyer aired the show suggesting Mr Hesling was lying.

“Will Heslin or Megyn Kelly clarify?” Mr Shroyer said on Infowars. “I won’t hold your breath.”

During the trial, Mr. Jones’ attorney, F. Andino Reynal, said Mr. Jones was essentially defending himself. He insisted he would appear in court as the only witness in his defense after there was considerable uncertainty about whether the conspiracy broadcaster would testify.

Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis deployed a number of experts. Trial begins with testimony from Dan Jewiss, a retired Connecticut State Police investigator who led the Sandy Hook case; the forensic psychiatrist and psychologist who treated Mr. Hesling and Ms. Lewis home; and several Infowars employees whose questionable statements enabled the family’s lawyers to submit evidence against Mr Jones, including a TV version of a full interview with Ms Kelly in which Mr Jones made inflammatory false claims.

In the decade since Sandy Hook, Mr. Jones’ audience and corresponding earnings have risen sharply to more than $50 million a year.

His defense of the Second Amendment in the wake of the mass shooting has caught the attention of mainstream news organizations. But it was Mr. Jones’ alliance with former President Donald J. Trump, who appeared on Infowars in December 2015, that took him from the fringes of the far-right to the center of Republican populism.

Mr. Jones and Mr. Trump often echo the same inflammatory false claims, including the racist “birthplace” lie that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; Muslims in the New York area “celebrated” September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; and the 2020 election lies that brought violence to Congress last year.

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