October 7, 2022

On Friday, a jury in Texas, Alex Jones’ home state, unanimously decided to sentence him, amounting to 45.2 million dollarsabove the $4.1 million he had already been ordered to pay to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The defamation suit concerned Jones’ regular rants, on the Infowars website, that Sandy Hook was a hoax, staged, that none of the 20 dead children or their parents were even real:

From October 26, 2017: “I don’t know what really happened to Sandy Hook, guys. We’ve looked at all sides, played devil’s advocate on both sides, but I mean it’s as fake as a three dollar bill.”

From January 13, 2015: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with, in my view, manufactured actors.”

The road to reckoning for Alex Jones was as ugly and wild as last week’s trial proved, correspondent Martha Teichner reports.

Scarlett Lewis, Jesse’s mother, addressed Jones from the stand:Jesse was real. I am a real mom… I know you know this. this is the problem.”

Jesse’s father, Neil Heslin, described the harassment, including death threats, he and the families of other Sandy Hook victims faced because Jones’ followers believed him. Heslin told the court, I can’t even begin to describe the last nine and a half years of a living hell that I and others have had to endure.”

Jones testified, “I’ve done some things that are wrong, and I didn’t do it on purpose, and I apologize.”

In one of many surprising moments in court last week, a suddenly remorseful Alex Jones admitted he had lied. “Especially since I met the parents and, uh, it is 100% true“, he stated.

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman told Teichner, “Alex Jones is exposed as a liar, and when Alex Jones admits, he admits that he knew this happened at Sandy Hook and that it wasn’t a hoax, if that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will.”

Another one of those moments: the revelation that Jones’ lawyer had accidentally sent the other side years of text messages proving he lied – phone records that Jones had claimed under oath did not exist. Is it is now of interest to the Committee of January 6th.

Klieman said, “There’s certainly a possibility that a prosecutor could look at the record in this case and say, ‘This is someone who committed perjury.'”

Teichner asked, “How much of a problem is it really?”

“I think Alex Jones is in a whole world of trouble,” she replied.

As a sideshow to the drama inside, outside the courtroom Jones cried “witch hunt.”

“This is a kangaroo court,” he said. “This is a political action.”

And then, she cried a little. His company, Free Speech Systems, declared bankruptcy.

Forensic economist Bernard Pettingill testified that Jones and his company are actually worth between $135 million and $270 million and that he is shielding money in shell companies.

He told the jury: “Alex Jones, as much of a dude as he is, as much of an outsider as he is, he’s a very successful man. … Everything flows into Alex Jones. I think Alex Jones made all the important decisions. And I think Alex Jones knows where it’s the money.”

Will Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin see the money they hoped would be a deterrent, stop Alex Jones and others profiting from spreading lies? Probably not. Texas limits punitive damages. That $45 million is likely to fall below that.

And his lawyer said that, after the trial, Jones will continue his show. “Alex Jones will be on the air today, he’ll be on the air tomorrow, he’ll be on the air next week,” he said.

But Jones still faces other trials, in Texas and Connecticut, where lying can prove far more expensive.

“What a verdict really means is telling the truth,” Kliman said. “Will it really change the landscape of the information age, lies, misinformation, subversion, inaccuracy? I don’t think we know yet, but at least it’s a start.”

Story production by Mary Raffalli. Editor: Mike Levine.

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