A Texas jury on Friday ordered Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting victim, a day after deciding that the Infowars host must pay them $4.1 million in compensation for the suffering his lies caused about him. 2012 massacre.
Wesley Ball, attorney for Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, asked a jury to award them $149.5 million to access the $150 million they initially sought.
Ball argued that only such a large sum would be enough to “take the trumpet away” from Jones.
“I ask that in your judgment, you don’t just take away the Alex Jones platform he’s talking about. I’m asking you to make sure he can’t rebuild the platform. That’s what matters,” he said. “This is punishment, this is deterrence.”
Jones’ attorney, Andino Renal, told jurors that they had already sent a letter to Jones and other talk show hosts with a $4.1 million ruling that “their level of care should be different.” He also argued that awarding a large prize would only dissuade people questioning “the government officials who dropped the ball” from doing so.
Renal contested the decision, arguing that the ruling did not comply with Texas law, which sets the actual compensation amount at $750,000 for each plaintiff. The judge acknowledged the objection and added that the law indicates that in the state “we don’t trust our juries.”
Punitive damages are intended to punish someone for particularly harmful behavior.
The jury’s decision came on the heels of expert testimony from forensic economist Bernard Pettel whose testimony was intended to give the jury a picture of how much money Jones had and, therefore, how long it would take to punish him for his behavior. Pettingell estimated that Jones and his companies were worth between $135 million and $270 million – a sum his defense team contested – and said that Jones and his companies made more money after being “drained” by various social media in 2018. Jones has maintained It’s all over the trial that his companies have incurred losses since he was removed from the sites.
Pettingell also testified that Jones began paying $11,000 a day into a shell company he controlled after he was found liable in a default judgment in the Sandy Hook case.
“He is a very successful man,” he testified. “He put out some hate speech and some misinformation, but he made a lot of money and invested that.”
The jury in this case was only asked to decide whether Jones, who had already been found responsible by a judge because he had not delivered crucial evidence before the trial began, should pay Jesse’s parents for the emotional distress and reputational damage caused by his false allegations.
The trial included testimony from both parents and Jones, who portrayed the suit as an attack on his First Amendment rights. After the massacre, he asserted that it was fabricated and includes actors in crises. He later admitted that it happened.
Heslin and Lewis testified on Tuesday that Jones’ lies left them in fear for their lives and exacerbated their grief.
“Having a 6-year-old son shot in front of his classroom is unbearable and you don’t think you’ll survive and then to have someone on top of that perpetuate the lie that it was a hoax,” Lewis said, speaking directly to Jones during her testimony. You understand the fear you perpetuate, not just for the victim’s family but for our family, our friends, and any survivors from that school.”
The core of the trial is a 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” in which Heslin appeared and challenged Jones’ refusal to shoot. “I carried my son with a bullet in the head,” Hesselin says in the episode.
Jones and another Infowars host, Owen Schroer, later indicated that Hesselin lied.
Heslin and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families that have filed lawsuits against Jones arguing that his statements that the mass shooting was a hoax led to years of abuse from his followers.