September 23, 2023

A Texas court has ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay the parents of a victim of the Sandy Hook school shooting $45.2 million in restitution. The same jury a day earlier awarded the family $4.1 million in compensation, after Jones had been found liable for libel by a judge over his claims the shooting was a “hoax”.

Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was one of 20 children and six adults killed during the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, sued Jones and the media company of Free Speech Systems in 2018. The pair initially sought at least $150 million in damages.

The ruling comes after a week and a half of sometimes emotional testimony at the trial, which Heslin and Lewis described as how their lives were affected from Jones’ false claims.

“I can’t even describe the past nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Heslin said in his testimony Tuesday, describing the abuse the couple endured. Jones fans. The two said people shot at their home and car and received threatening emails, among other harassment.

“Jesse was real. I’m a real mom,” Lewis said in her deposition, addressing Jones. “…I know you do, and that’s the problem.”

Jones shook his head in response.

“I know you believe me,” he said. “Yet you’re going to leave this courthouse and say it again on your show.”

The “Infowars” host, who faces two more damages lawsuits related to his false claims that the shooting was staged, admitted in his deposition that the shooting was “100% real” but described the trial as a “kangaroo court”

Jones and his company are worth as much as $270 million, economist Bernard Pettingill, who was hired by the plaintiffs to study Jones’ net worth, testified Friday. Pettingill said records show Jones withdrew $62 million for himself in 2021 when default judgments were entered in lawsuits against him.

“That number represents, in my opinion, a net worth value,” Pettingill said. “He’s got money in a bank account somewhere.”

The money that flows into Jones’ companies is ultimately funneled back to him, said Pettingill, who added that he has testified in about 1,500 cases during his career.

“He’s a very successful man,” Pettingill said, calling Jones “evil” and a “rebel” who finds ways to monetize his online messages.

Jones — who was briefly in the courtroom Friday but left before Pettingill testified — told jurors earlier this week that any award above $2 million would “sink us.” And a week ago, Free Speech Systems, which is the parent company of Infowars, filed for federal bankruptcy protection.

Jones still faces penalties in two more lawsuits, one in Texas and one in Connecticut, which brought families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. Judges in each of those trials have already entered default judgments against Jones.

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