By Jack Queen
(Reuters) -U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre $45.2 million in punitive damages - on top of $4.1 million in compensatory damages already awarded - for falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax, a Texas jury decided on Friday.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, separated parents of slain 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, testified that followers of Jones harassed them and sent them death threats for years in the false belief that they were lying about their son's death in the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting that killed 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The 12-person jury on Thursday decided on the compensatory damages following a two-week trial in the defamation lawsuit presided over by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in state court in the Texas capital of Austin, where Jones' radio show and webcast Infowars are based.
The parents had sought $145.9 million in punitive damages and $150 million in compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to cover a plaintiff's suffering and losses. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a defendant's actions.