A Texas judge on Friday ordered Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in restitution to the parents of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim, a day after the Infowars host ordered them to pay $4.1 million in restitution for suffering caused by his lies. the 2012 massacre.
Wesley Ball, the attorney for Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, had asked the jury to award them $149.5 million to reach $150 million which they originally requested.
Ball argued that only that much would be enough to “take the bullhorn away” from Jones.
“I’m asking with your verdict, not only do you take away Alex Jones’ platform that 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, Antino Reynal, told jurors they had already sent a message to Jones and other talk show hosts with the $4.1 million judgment that “their level of care has to be different.” He also argued that a substantial award would only serve to discourage people who challenge “government officials who dropped the ball” from doing so.
Reynal contested the decision, arguing that the verdict was inconsistent with Texas law, which sets the actual award at $750,000 per plaintiff. The judge acknowledged the objection and added that the law implies that in the state “we don’t trust our juries.”
Punitive damages are intended to punish someone for particularly harmful conduct.
The jury’s decision followed 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 it would take to punish him for his behavior. Pettingill estimated Jones and his companies are worth $135 million to $270 million — a figure disputed by his defense team — and said Jones and his companies made more money after “deplatforming” from several social media platforms in 2018 .Jones maintained throughout the trial that his companies 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,” she testified. “He put out some hate speech and some misinformation, but he made a lot of money and he made money.”
Jurors in that case were asked only to decide whether Jones, who has already been found liable by a judge for failing to turn over crucial evidence before the trial began, must also pay Jesse’s parents for the emotional distress and reputation he caused. caused by his false claims.
The trial included testimony from both the parents and Jones, who presented the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights. After the massacre, it was claimed that it was fabricated and included factors of the crisis. He later admitted it happened.
Heslin and Lewis testified Tuesday that Jones’ lies left them fearing for their lives and compounded their grief.
“To have a 6-year-old son get shot in front of his classroom 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 her deposition. “I don’t think you understand the fear you are perpetuating, not only in the victim’s family, but in our family, our friends and any survivors from this school.”
At the heart of the trial is a 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” in which Heslin appeared and challenged Jones’ denial of the shooting. Heslin says in the episode, “I held my son with a bullet hole in his head.”
Jones and another Infowars host, Owen Sroyer, later suggested that Heslin had lied.
Heslin and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families who have filed lawsuits against Jones alleging that his claims that the mass killing was a hoax led to years of abuse from his followers.