AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas jury on Friday gave conspiracy theorist Alex Jones an order to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. $4.1 million plus the amount he has to pay for harassing them for years claiming the deadliest school shooting in the United States was a hoax. go up to
The $49.3 million total falls short of the $150 million sought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. He lied about the massacre, claiming it was fabricated by the government to tighten gun control.
Lewis then said Jones was held responsible for not being in court to hear the verdict.As she stood in the stands and looked Jones in the eyes, she thought of her son.
“He stood up to bully Adam Lanza and saved the lives of nine classmates,” Lewis said. “I hope I have done justice for that incredible bravery when I was able to stand up to Alex Jones, who is also a bully. I hope to encourage
It could be some time before plaintiffs recover anything. Andino Raynal, Jones’ lead attorney, said he would appeal to the judge and ask the court to significantly reduce the size of the sentence.
After the hearing, Reynal said it believed the punitive amount would be reduced to just $1.5 million.
“I think the verdict is too high. … Alex Jones is on the air today, it’s on the air tomorrow, it’s on the air next week. He will continue his work of holding power structures accountable.”
Jones’ corporate and personal assets may also be chopped up by other lawsuits and bankruptcies. Another defamation lawsuit against Jones by the Sandy Hook family is set to begin pretrial hearing in the same Austin court on Sept. 14. He faces yet another defamation lawsuit in Connecticut.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston said he believed he could challenge any attempt to reduce damages. But even with the prize money drastically cut, it’s important to get a large judgment in bankruptcy court for the family to claim against Jones’ property and company.
Jones testified this week that prizes over $2 million “sink us.” Infowars’ Austin-based parent company, his company Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy protection in the first week of the trial.
Punitive damages are aimed at punishing defendants for particularly heinous acts beyond monetary compensation given to individuals they have harmed. A harsh and punitive award is a chance for jurors to send out a wider social message, as well as a way to deter others from doing the same abomination in the future.
Barry Covert, a Buffalo, N.Y., attorney, a First Amendment attorney who had nothing to do with Jones’ case, said the total damages awarded amounted to “a staggering loss for Jones.” .
“For a total of $50 million, the jury sent a loud, loud message that this behavior was unacceptable,” Covert said. “Anyone who deliberately lies on a show like this, the jury will not tolerate it.”
Future jurors in other pending Sandy Hook trials could look at damages in this case as a benchmark, Covert said. is very likely to go out of business,” he said.
Lawyers for the family have asked the jury to impose financial penalties that would force Infowars to shut down.
Wesley Ball, the parents’ attorney, told jurors on Friday, “You have the ability to make sure this guy doesn’t do that again.” You are free to lie, you pay.
One economist testified that Jones and the company were worth up to $270 million.
Bernard Pettingill, who was hired by the plaintiff to investigate Jones’ net worth, records show that Jones withdrew $62 million for himself when the lawsuit against him was defaulted in 2021. .
“In my opinion, this number represents the net worth value,” Pettingill said. “He puts money in some bank account.”
But Jones’ attorneys said the client had already learned his lesson.
“You’ve already sent the message. It’s the first message to talk show hosts, all talk show hosts, that their standards of care must change,” Raynal said.
Friday’s damages drew praise from the Federation of American Teachers, which represents teachers in Sandy Hook.
“The pain of losing a child and seeing that tragedy that was denied for political reasons will never go away. But I’m glad Sandy Hook’s parents got justice. union president Randy Weingarten tweeted.
Attorneys for the Sandy Hook family suing Jones allege that he tried to hide evidence of his true wealth at various shell companies.
In his testimony, Jones was told by one of his business managers that his gross daily income from selling vitamin supplements and other products through his website was $800,000, making nearly $300 million a year. I was faced with a note outlining what would happen. Jones called it a record sales day.
Describing the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, Jones said: Admitted during trial that attack was ‘100% real’ And he was wrong for lying about it. However, Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology wasn’t enough and asked them to pay for the years of suffering Jones had caused them and the rest of the Sandy Hook family.
Her parents told jurors they had endured ten years of trauma. First was the murder of his son, followed by a shooting at his home, threats online and by phone, and harassment by strangers on the street. said it spread to his supporters through Infowars.
Forensic psychiatrists see parents suffering from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” caused by ongoing trauma, similar to what soldiers in war and victims of child abuse may experience. I testified that there was
During the trial, Jones was a typical pretentious self, on the witness stand, in an impromptu press conference, and on his show, talking about the conspiracy. His erratic behavior was abnormal by court standards, and a judge scolded him, at one point saying, “This is not your show.”
The trial attracted attention even outside of Austin.
Bankston told court Thursday that a US House committee is investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riots The U.S. Capitol requested records from Jones’ phone calls that Jones’ attorneys had mistakenly handed over to plaintiffs. Bankston later said he would comply with the commission’s request.
By Friday, Bankston said, “a summons is on my desk” from the Jan. 6 committee. However, he said the data appeared to have been scraped in mid-2020, and that expectations should be “lowered” that the text on the riots might be revealed.
Bankston said there was also “law enforcement” interest in the phone data, but did not provide further details.
Last month, a House committee .
The commission first subpoenaed Jones in Novemberdemanded depositions and documents related to his efforts to disseminate misinformation about the 2020 election and attack day rallies.
AP writer Michael Tarm of Chicago and Susan Haigh of Norwich, Connecticut contributed to this report.
The full AP article on the Alex Jones trial can be found at https://apnews.com/hub/alex-jones.