A Texas jury has ruled that Infowars host Alex Jones must pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim. Friday’s ruling comes a day after the same jury awarded the plaintiffs $4.1 million in compensatory damages, leading to the final stage of the defamation lawsuit first filed in 2018.
Jones was not in court as the jury read the unanimous verdict.
The damages phase of the trial, which ended Friday, saw Jones, a leading provider of far-right conspiracy theories, face financial repercussions in court for the outlandish lies he told on his Infowars broadcast about the shooting. Since shortly after the 2012 shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 young children, Jones said on his show that “nobody died” on Sandy Hook, saying the attack was He said it was a ruse “engineered” for gun control advocates to manufacture. anti-gun sentiment.
Alex Jones Must Pay Sandy Hook’s Parents $4.1 Million, Jury Rules
In a lawsuit filed by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, the damages will face Jones in the coming months in additional Sandy Hook defamation lawsuits in Texas and Connecticut. suggests that it is possible.
According to Carl Tobias, a tort law expert at the University of Richmond Law School, under Texas law, punitive damages per plaintiff are double the compensatory award plus $750,000. It is not yet known what punitive damages the parent will ultimately receive, as it is limited to
That calculation means that the plaintiff could receive less than a quarter of the total award determined by the jury, and that the compensatory damages are non-economic, such as emotional distress, rather than lost wages. If for a reason, the amount could be further reduced, Tobias said. .
Punitive damages are stinging, according to Tobias, and despite many states contradictingly capping such discretion, jurors awarded an amount proportional to the defendant’s finances. It tends to be judgmental.
“Theoretically, the damage is thought to be great enough to deter the person who did this and other members of society,” he said.
A jury on Friday heard additional testimony about Jones’ finances before beginning deliberations on the amount that would punish Jones for his lies and discourage him from lying again.
Bernard Pettingill Jr., a forensic economist and former professor of economics at the Florida Institute of Technology, said in court Friday that the combined net worth of Jones and his entity is between $135 million and $270 million. He testified that he estimated it to be between
“You can’t separate Alex Jones from the company. He’s the company,” said Pettingill.
This testimony stands in stark contrast to Jones’ public statements that he is financially disadvantaged. After his lawyers initially argued that Jones lost millions of dollars and followers when he was banned from his social media platforms such as YouTube and his Spotify, the plaintiffs were charged with $1 per claim. I was asking a jury to rule on the dollar.
Free Speech Systems, the parent company of the Infowars website, filed for bankruptcy during the trial, but Pettingill and other witnesses said Jones’ failure to file papers in court made a full scrutiny of Jones’ finances impossible. said it was possible.
As a result of Jones’ refusal to comply with court orders regarding documents and other evidence, Travis County, Texas District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a default judgment against Jones last September, awarding him all damages. I will take responsibility.
But in a dramatic moment in court Wednesday, it was revealed that Jones’ legal team inadvertently sent the contents of his cell phone to a lawyer representing his parents. Attorney Mark Bankston accused Jones of lying under oath when he testified that he did not have text messages related to the Sandy Hook massacre.
During jury deliberations, Jones’ attorney asked Bankston to delete the seized phone data, which the judge denied.
Jones’ attorney said the legal battle against him was an attack on his First Amendment rights, but his parents’ legal team argued that his rhetoric was defamatory and unprotected.
Sandy Hook’s attorney says Alex Jones’ attorney accidentally gave them the contents of his phone call
During a defamation phase that lasted nearly two weeks, Heslin and Lewis said Jones’ brutally false claim that his son never died and that they were “crisis actors” sent them through “living hell.” I testified that it brought
On Tuesday’s stand, Heslin grieved for his son while also speaking out against death threats and abuse from those who embraced Jones’ rhetoric.
“I can’t even explain the last nine and a half years of the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of Alex Jones’ recklessness and negligence,” Heslin told the jury.
In Friday’s closing arguments, Bankston said jurors were tasked with punishing Jones and dissuading their verdict, pleading that they use their votes to “stop Alex Jones.”
“Truly, you have the ability today to stop this man from continuing to tear apart the fabric of our society for the great financial gain he has made so far.
“Free speech,” he added. “Lies, you pay.”
Merrill Cornfield contributed to this report.