Alex Jones, well-known radio host and founder of the conspiracy site InfoWars, was sentenced to pay $ 45.2 million in “punitive damages” in the defamation trial he is charged with in Austin, Texas: Jones had for years supported the false theory that the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, in Connecticut, it had been a staging to pass laws restricting the sale and use of weapons. In Sandy Hook, in December 2012, a 20-year-old man killed 27 people, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7.
The jury’s new decision was announced on Friday: on Thursday the same jury had sentenced him to pay 4.1 million dollars in compensation to the family of Jesse Lewis, one of the children killed.
In US law, damages (or “compensatory damages”) are based on proven damage, loss or injury and often calculated based on the value of the damaged property, loss of wages or expenses incurred. “Punitive damages” have the express purpose of punishing particularly harmful conduct and tend to be granted at the discretion of the court. Sometimes, as in this case, they are much greater than the compensatory damages.
However, it is not certain that Jones should actually pay the 45 million in full, because Texan laws impose a maximum limit on punitive damages: they can be double the damages plus 750 thousand dollars. In the case of Jones, therefore, it would be about 9 million dollars.
The lawyer for Jesse Lewis’s family, however, said the matter is likely to be presented to the Texas Supreme Court and experts say there are several doubts about the constitutionality of imposing a ceiling on punitive damages.
For years, on his popular radio show, Jones had argued that the killing was a hoax, that it never happened, and that the parents of the dead children were actually actors paid by President Barack Obama’s administration. His conspiracy theories had become famous in the circles of the American right and had caused enormous inconvenience to the parents of the children, who for years have been persecuted and offended by Jones’s followers.
The Austin trial is one of three filed by various Sandy Hook families of children.
– Read also: The trial of the conspiracy theorist who denied the Sandy Hook massacre