By Jack Queen
(Reuters) – Parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre are expected to testify on Monday that U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones fueled a campaign of harassment against them by claiming the shooting was a hoax.
Jones, founder of the Infowars radio show and webcast, is on trial in Texas to determine how much he must pay for spreading falsehoods about the killing of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of slain 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, are seeking as much as $150 million from Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems LLC.
Jones has already been found liable for defamation by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin, Texas, who issued a rare default judgment against him in 2021.
The defamation suit in Texas, where Infowars is based, is one of several brought by families of victims who say they were harassed by Jones’ followers as a result of his false claims.
Free Speech Systems filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on Friday evening. While this would normally result in the trial being halted, a bankruptcy judge on Monday allowed it to continue.
Nevertheless, Jones and his company could later attempt to use the bankruptcy proceedings, commenced in another Texas court, to avoid paying the full jury award in the defamation case.
During opening statements in Texas last week, lawyers for Heslin and Lewis said Jones led a “vile campaign of defamation” and must pay the price for his falsehoods.
A lawyer for Jones said he has already paid a price after being deplatformed in 2018 and losing millions of viewers.
Jones, who has been intermittently present in the courtroom and occasionally broadcast his show as his lawyers defended him, is set to face trial in September in a similar suit in Connecticut state court, where he has also been found liable for defamation in a default judgment.
The Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle to carry out the massacre. It ended when Lanza killed himself with the approaching sound of police sirens.
(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)