A Texas jury has begun deliberations to determine how much in damages far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay for claiming that the massacre of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a “hoax”.
Jones, founder of the website InfoWars and host of a radio show, for years claimed that the Sandy Hook shooting was “staged” by “crisis actors”, but acknowledged during the trial that the massacre was “100 per cent real”.
He has already been found liable in several defamation lawsuits by parents of the victims of the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, shooting.
A 12-person jury in Austin, Texas, heard closing arguments and began considering damages on Wednesday in the first of several defamation cases against Jones to reach the damages phase.
The case was brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was one of the children killed by a gunman in the deadliest school shooting in US history. They are seeking at least $150 million in damages.
Mr Heslin and Ms Lewis gave evidence on the impact Jones's false claims had on their lives, including harassment, death threats and online abuse.
“I can’t even describe the past nine and a half years of hell I have had to endure because of the negligence and recklessness of Alex Jones and the propaganda he has peddled for his own profits and success,” Mr Heslin said earlier this week.
Kyle Farrar, a lawyer for the parents, urged the jury to end their nightmare and hold Jones accountable.
“He was making money off of it by spreading misinformation and spreading lies,” Mr Farrar said.
Another lawyer for the parents, Mark Bankston, accused Jones of approaching the trial in bad faith, pointing to broadcasts in which Jones claimed the trial was rigged and said the jury consisted of people “who don't know what planet they're on”.
F Andino Reynal, a lawyer for Jones, told the jury that the InfoWars founder should not be held responsible for his listeners' actions.
“Alex ran with a story and he made a mistake,” Mr Reynal said. “He trusted the wrong people. And he ran with a story that ended up being false.”
The Sandy Hook school shooting was the fourth-deadliest shooting in US history and sparked renewed debate on gun control in the country.
Chris Murphy, a US senator who represents Connecticut, was the Democrats' lead negotiator on a bipartisan gun control bill that was signed into law earlier this year after 19 children were killed at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Agencies contributed to this report