Alex Jones Trial Jury Awards $45 Million More to Sandy Hook Parents

AUSTIN, Texas – A Texas jury on Friday ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay the parents of a boy killed at Sandy Hook High School in 2012 $45.2 million in punitive damages for spreading the lie that they helped organize the massacre.

The jury announced its decision a day after awarding the parents over $4 million in compensatory damages and after testifying on Friday that Mr. Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his disinformation outlet Infowars, were worth between $135 million and $270 million.

Jones was found liable last year for defaming the victims’ families while spreading false theories that the shooting was part of a government plot to confiscate firearms from Americans and that the victims’ families they had been complicit in the scheme.

This week’s trial was the first of three to determine how much Mr. Jones to the families for the suffering he has caused, and the size of the award is sure to be contested. Jurors deliberated for about four hours before reaching Friday’s verdict.

Compensatory damages are based on proven damage, loss or injury, and are often calculated based on the fair market value of the damaged property, lost wages and expenses, depending on Cornell Law School. Punitive damages are intended to punish particularly harmful behavior and tend to be awarded at the court’s discretion, and are sometimes multiples of a compensatory award.

The case decided this week was brought by Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, died in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut. It was the first to emerge from several lawsuits filed by the victims’ parents in 2018. .

“This is an important day for truth, for justice, and I couldn’t be happier,” said Ms. Lewis in the courtroom after the verdict.

Before jurors began deliberating on punitive damages, Wesley Todd Ball, an attorney for the family, told the jury she had “the ability to send a message for everyone in this country and maybe this world to hear.”

“We’re asking you to send a very, very simple message, and it’s: Stop Alex Jones,” he said. “Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies. Please.”

Mr. Ball had asked the jury for punitive damages of about $146 million, on top of the $4 million in compensatory damages awarded Thursday.

Credit…Photo of the pool by Briana Sánchez

How much Mr. Jones will actually have to pay in punitive damages will be the subject of further litigation. Texas law limits punitive damages to twice the compensatory damages plus $750,000.

But Mark Bankston, lawyer for Mr. Heslin and Mrs. Lewis, told reporters Thursday that the issue is likely to end up before the Texas Supreme Court, and legal experts said there were disagreements over the constitutionality of the head.

The lawyer of Mr. Jones, F. Andino Reynal, said the punitive award would eventually be reduced to $1.5 million.

Mr. Jones believes “the First Amendment is under attack and hopes to continue the fight,” Reynal said after the verdict.

After the jury’s award, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble also cleared the way for another step that could prove problematic for Mr. Jones.

The family’s lawyers had revealed during the trial that Mr. Jones had apparently inadvertently sent them a large cache of data from Mr. Jones, and on Friday Judge Gamble said he would not stand in the way of lawyers for Mr. Heslin and Mrs. Lewis providing the messages to law enforcement and the January 6 House committee.

The committee has cited Mr. Jones in his investigation for his role in helping plan the pro-Trump rally in Washington on January 6, 2021, which preceded the attack on the Capitol.

In the Sandy Hook defamation cases, a damages trial in another of the lawsuits in Connecticut is scheduled to begin next month, but could be delayed due to a bankruptcy filing last week by Free Speech Systems. Lawyers for the families criticized the move as another attempt by Mr. Jones to protect his wealth and evade judgment.

The Texas case allowed plaintiffs to present testimony about Mr. Jones and the operations of his companies, which in addition to carrying their emissions make money by selling merchandise.

Bernard Pettingill Jr., a forensic economist and former professor of economics at the Florida Institute of Technology, testified Friday as Mr. Heslin and Mrs. Lewis that Mr. Jones “is a very successful man.”

Infowars averaged $53.2 million in annual revenue between September 2015 and December 2018, Pettingill said. Since then, there has been a “healthy increase” in the company’s revenue, including sales of merchandise and survival supplements, and it brought in nearly $65 million last year, he said.

At one point, Mr. Jones was paying himself an average of $6 million a year, Pettingill said.

In its bankruptcy filing, Free Speech Systems reported $14.3 million in assets as of May 31, with net income of $1.9 million and nearly $11 million in product sales. Free Speech Systems also had nearly $79.2 million in debt, 68% of which was in the form of a note on PQPR Holdingsan entity that appoints Mr. Jones as manager.

Last year, after Mr. After Jones was found guilty by default in the Sandy Hook cases, he began funneling $11,000 a day to PQPR, Pettingill said.

The “giant” loan from PQPR, a shell company with no employees, is actually that Mr. Jones “is using this note as payback,” Mr. Pettingill, although the lawyer of Mr. Jones insisted that PQPR is a real company. . Another note will ripen when Mr. Jones is 74 years old (now 48).

Mr. Pettingill said he had managed to track down nine private companies associated with Jones, but had to redact information in part because Mr. Jones resisted discovery orders.

“We can’t really put our finger on what he does for a living, how he actually makes his money,” she said.

“Their organizational chart is an inverted T, which means everything flows to Alex Jones. Alex Jones made all the major decisions, and I think Alex Jones knows where the money is,” Pettingill said. “He can say he’s broke, he has no money, but we know that’s not right.”

Mr. Reynal, the lawyer of Mr. Jones, said in his closing statement Friday that “we got no evidence of what Alex Jones actually has today, we didn’t get anything of what FSS has today, what money they have, what assets they have to pay.”

Mr. Jones and associates like the Genesis Communications Network, which helped syndicate his show for decades, have claimed to be on the financial wire, using defamation cases as an opportunity to solicit donations from fans.

Mr. Jones has complained that his income dropped after he was banned from major social media platforms in 2018. Mr. Bankston pushed back in court Wednesday: “Well, after his deplatforming, his numbers just keep getting better,” he said.

After Friday’s verdict, Ms. Lewis stressed the importance of having had the opportunity during the trial to confront Mr. Jones straight into the room earlier in the week.

“I looked him in the eye and told him the impact his actions had on me and my family and not just us — all the other families in Sandy Hook, all the people who live in Sandy Hook and then the ‘Domino effect that it had around the world,’ he said. “That was a cathartic moment for me.”

It was also important, he said, that Mr Jones saw a video, played in court, of Jesse alive, running across a field. “I think he’s been punished,” she said of Mr. Jones. “I think he’s been held accountable, and I hope he really takes that very seriously because at the end of the day love is a choice, and what he’s putting out there, lies, hate, is also a choice.”

Elizabeth Williamson reported from Austin, Tiffany Hsu from San Francisco and Michael Levenson from New York.


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My name is Chasity. I love to follow the stock market and financial news!