A Texas jury on Friday ordered Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook elementary school victim, a day after it was ruled that the Infowars host awarded them $4.1 million dollars in damages for the suffering caused by his lies in the 2012 massacre.
Wesley Ball, an attorney for Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, attack, had asked the jury to award them $149.5 million, up from the $150 million originally sought reach.
Ball argued that just such a large sum would be enough to “take the megaphone away” from Jones.
“I ask that your judgment does not just take away from Alex Jones the platform he is talking about. I ask you to ensure that he cannot rebuild the platform. That’s what counts,” he said. “That’s punishment, that’s deterrence.”
Jones’ attorney Andino Reynal told jurors they had already sent a message to Jones and other talk show hosts with the $4.1 million verdict that “their standard of care must be different.” He also argued that a sizable award would only serve to discourage people who question “government officials who dropped the ball.”
Reynal objected to the decision, arguing that the ruling was inconsistent with Texas law, which caps the actual award at $750,000 per plaintiff. The judge acknowledged the objection, adding that the law implies that we in the state “don’t trust our jury.”
Punitive Damages are designed to punish someone for particularly harmful behavior.
The jury’s decision followed expert testimony from forensic economist Bernard Pettingill, whose testimony should give the jury a picture of how much money Jones has and how much it would cost to punish him for his behavior. Pettingill estimated that Jones and his companies are worth between $135 million and $270 million — an amount his defense team has disputed — and said Jones and his companies made more money after they were hit by multiple social media outlets in 2018 channels has been “deplatformed” in the process 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 being found liable in a default judgment in the Sandy Hook case.
“He’s a very successful man,” he said. “He put out some hate speech and some misinformation, but he made a lot of money and monetized it.”
The jury in that case had been asked simply to decide whether Jones, who had already been found liable by a judge for failing to provide critical evidence before the trial began, also must pay Jesse’s parents for the emotional distress and reputational damage that this caused his false claims.
The trial included testimonies from both parents and Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights. After the massacre he had claimed that it was fabricated and included crisis actors. He later admitted it took place.
Heslin and Lewis testified Tuesday that Jones’ lies made them fear for their lives and increased their grief.
“It’s unbearable to have shot a 6-year-old son in front of his classroom and you don’t think you’re going to survive and then to have someone keep up the lie that it was a hoax, it was a false one Flag,” Lewis said, speaking directly to Jones during her testimony. “I don’t think you understand the fear you are maintaining, not only towards the victim’s family, but towards our family, our friends and all the survivors of this school.”
The crux of the process 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 through the head.”
Jones and another Infowars host, Owen Shroyer, later implied that Heslin lied.
Heslin and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families that have filed lawsuits against Jones, arguing that his statements that the mass shooting was a hoax led to years of abuse from his supporters.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/alex-jones-must-pay-45-million-punitive-damages-family-sandy-hook-mass-rcna41738 Alex Jones ordered to pay family of Sandy Hook massacre victim more than $45 million in punitive damages, jury rules