A Texas jury on Friday ordered Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a victim of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, a day after ruling that the Infowars host was to pay them $4.1 million in compensatory damages for the suffering caused by his lies about the 2012 killings.
Wesley Ball, an attorney for Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, had asked the jury to award them $149.5 million to reach $150 million dollars they were looking for initially.
Ball argued that only such a large sum would be enough to “take the megaphone away” from Jones.
“I’m asking that with your verdict, you don’t just take down the Alex Jones rig he’s talking about. I’m asking you to make sure he can’t rebuild the rig. That’s what matters “, did he declare. “It’s a punishment, it’s a deterrent.”
Jones’s attorney, Andino Reynal, told jurors they had already messaged Jones and other talk show hosts with the $4.1 million judgment that “their level of care must be different”. He also argued that a substantial reward would only serve to discourage people who question “government officials who dropped the ball” from doing so.
Reynal objected to the decision, arguing that the verdict did not comply with Texas law, which caps actual compensation at $750,000 per plaintiff. The judge acknowledged the objection and added that the law implies that as it stands “we don’t trust our juries.”
Punitive damages are intended to punish someone for particularly harmful behavior.
The jury’s decision follows expert testimony from forensic economist Bernard Pettingill, whose testimony was intended to give jurors a picture of how much money Jones has and, by extension, how much money Jones has. it would take to punish him for his behavior. Pettingill estimated Jones and his companies were worth between $135 million and $270 million – an amount his defense team disputed – and said Jones and his companies made more money after being ‘misrepresented’ by multiple media outlets social media in 2018. Jones maintained throughout the lawsuit that his businesses have suffered losses since he was removed from the sites.
Pettingill also testified that Jones began paying $11,000 a day to a shell company he controls after he was found liable in a default judgment in the Sandy Hook case.
“He’s a very successful man,” he testified. “He promulgated hate speech and misinformation, but he made a lot of money and he monetized it.”
The jury in that case had only been asked to decide whether Jones, who had already been found liable by a judge for failing to turn over key evidence before the trial began, should also pay Jesse’s parents for the emotional distress and reputational damage caused by his misrepresentations.
The lawsuit included testimony from both parents and Jones, who described the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights. After the massacre, he claimed it was fabricated and included actors in the crisis. He later acknowledged that this had taken place.
Heslin and Lewis testified Tuesday that Jones’ lies made them fear for their lives and added to their grief.
“Having a 6 year old son shot in front of his class is unbearable and you don’t think you’re going to survive and then have someone on top of that perpetuate a lie that it was a hoax, that it was a false flag “Lewis said, speaking directly to Jones during his testimony. “I don’t think you understand the fear that you are perpetuating, not only towards the family of the victim, but also towards our family, our friends and all survivor of this school.”
The crux of the lawsuit is a 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” in which Heslin appeared and challenged Jones’ refusal to fire. Heslin says in the episode, “I held my son with a bullet hole in his head.”
Jones and another Infowars host, Owen Shroyer, later implied that Heslin lied.
Heslin and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families who have filed lawsuits against Jones, claiming his statements that the mass shooting was a hoax led to years of abuse from his supporters.