AUSTIN, Texas — Jury selection is set for Monday in a trial that will determine for the first time how much Infowars host Alex Jones must pay parents at Sandy Hook Elementary School for falsely telling his audience that the deadliest classroom shooting in US history was a hoax.
The trial in Austin, Texas – where the conspiracy theorist lives and airs his show – follows months of delays. Jones racked up fines for ignoring court orders, and he placed Infowars under bankruptcy protection just before the trial began in April.
At stake for Jones is another potentially major financial hit that could put his constellation of conspiracy peddling businesses in jeopardy. He has previously been banned from YouTube, Facebook and Spotify for violating hate speech policies.
The lawsuit involving the parents of two Sandy Hook families is just the beginning for Jones; damages have yet to be awarded in separate defamation cases for other families from the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
The lawsuits do not ask jurors to award a specific dollar amount against Jones.
Courts in Texas and Connecticut have already found Jones liable for defamation for his portrayal of the Sandy Hook massacre as a hoax involving actors aimed at increasing gun control. In both states, judges entered default judgments against Jones without a trial because he failed to respond to court orders and turn over documents.
The 2012 shooting killed 20 first graders and six educators. The families of eight of the victims and an FBI agent who responded to the school are suing Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems.
Jones has since acknowledged that the shooting took place. During a deposition in April, Jones insisted he was not responsible for the suffering Sandy Hook’s parents say they endured as a result of the hoax plot, including death threats and harassment from Jones supporters.
“No, I’m not accepting responsibility because I wasn’t trying to cause pain and suffering,” Jones said, according to transcripts made public this month. He continued, “They are used and their children who cannot be brought back (are) used to destroy the First Amendment.”
Jones claimed in court records last year that he had a negative net worth of $20 million, but attorneys for the Sandy Hook families painted a different financial picture.
Court records show Jones’ Infowars store, which sells nutritional supplements and survival gear, grossed more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018. Jones also urged listeners to his Infowars program to donate silver.
Associated Press reporter Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.