Infowars founder Alex Jones ordered to pay $45.2 million punitive damages to Sandy Hook family, a day after being hit with $4.1million compensatory damages – Jones faces two more defamation trials
Alex Jones is ordered to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of one Sandy Hook victim Jesse Lewis
A day earlier Jones was ordered to pay the same family after he was hit with $4.1million in compensatory damages
Friday’s verdict means Jones will have to pay nearly $50million to the family of 6-year-old Jesse who was shot dead in the Sandy Hook massacre
In closing statement, a lawyer for Lewis’ family reminded the jury that Jones is said to be worth $270 million
Damages break down as $4.2 million for defaming Neil Heslin, $20.5 million to Heslin for mental anguish and $20.5 million to Scarlett Lewis for mental anguish
This is the first of three trials that Jones will face in relation to his claims that the 2012 school shooting was ‘false flag’ performed by the US government
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis testified that Jones’ followers harassed them for years in the false belief that the parents lied about their son’s death
Heslin and Lewis were seeking $145 million in damages while Jones’ lawyers were asking for the figure to be capped at $270,000
Following the verdict, Lewis tweeted: ‘Sandy Hook happened. Jesse was a hero. Alex Jones was held accountable’
Jones speaking through his attorney believes ‘that he’d been found guilty before he ever had a chance to defend this case on the merits’ and ‘The First Amendment is under siege’
Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Friday was ordered to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the family of slain 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, one of the 26 victims, shot dead in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012.
That’s in addition to the $4 million in compensatory damages the InfoWars host was ordered to pay to parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis on Thursday.
In his closing statement, a lawyer for the victims’ families said: ‘Alex Jones is worth almost $270 million that we know of. Please take an amount that punishes him, and an amount that ensures he never does this again.’
This is the first of three trials that Jones will face in relation to his claims that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax. Last year, he was found guilty of defaming the families of the victims.
A total of 26 victims perished in the Connecticut school massacre. Two more suits filed by grieving families against Jones will be heard in September, one in Texas and one in Connecticut. Eight families will be represented in the Connecticut trial.
Jesse’s mom Scarlett Lewis tweeted in the aftermath of the jury’s decision: ‘Sandy Hook happened. Jesse was a hero. Alex Jones was held accountable. Today the jury proved that most of America is ready to choose love over fear and I’ll be forever grateful to them.’
She added: ‘Ironically, Alex Jones ended up giving me a larger platform to share Jesse’s story and message.’ Lewis posted a link to her Choose Love Movement charity’s website.
In court, Lewis said: ‘This is an important day for truth, for justice and I couldn’t be happier. This has been a long battle, a long time spent, 10 years, and to have the result a strong message to the world that literally, choosing love is what we need to do.’
She continued: ‘I got to look into his eyes and I got to tell him the impact his actions had on me and my family. And not just us, all the other Sandy Hook families, all the people that live in Sandy Hook and then the ripple effect that that had throughout the world. That was a cathartic moment for me.’
Strangely, following Thursday’s verdict of $4 million in damages, Jones, who was not present in court on Friday invited Heslin and Lewis to appear on his show ‘to discuss feelings about how the trial unfolded.’
For years Jones claimed on his InfoWars platform that the shooting in Newton was a ‘false flag’ operation perpetrated by the US government to further gun control.
Jones’ lawyer, Federico Andino Reynal, immediately objected to the ruling citing a Texas law that caps plaintiff compensation at $750,000 per person.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble. acknowledged the objection. Speaking to the media outside of the courtroom, Reynal said: ‘We are very pleased with the result. We think the jury seriously considered the issues. We think the verdict was too high.’
He went on: ‘Alex Jones will be on the air today, and he will be on the air next week. He’s going to keep doing his job holding our power structure accountable.’
Jones believes ‘that he’d been found guilty before he ever had a chance to defend this case on the merits’ and ‘The First Amendment is under siege’.
His client looks forward to continuing the fight Reynal said when Fox News asked about Jones’ reaction to the verdict.
Judge Gamble went on to say she was not blocking Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin’s lawyers from handing over Jones’ phone data to law enforcement. On Wednesday, it emerged that Jones’ lawyers accidentally sent his phone’s data to the Lewis and Heslin’s lawyers. The data contained two years of text messages.
After the judge left the court, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, Mark Bankston, said: ‘I’ll take it,’ in response to the verdict.
The damages break down as $4.2 million for defaming Neil Heslin, $20.5 million to Heslin for mental anguish and $20.5 million to Scarlett Lewis for mental anguish.
During the trial, the plaintiffs testified that they received harassment and even death threats from Jones’ fans after he made repeated false claims about the shooting.
‘We ask that you send a very, very simple message, and that is: stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies,’ Wesley Todd Ball, a lawyer for the parents, told jurors before they began deliberations.
Reynal asked jurors to return a verdict of $270,000 based on the number of hours Infowars devoted to Sandy Hook coverage.
Disregarding Reynal’s prayer for a capped verdict, the 12-person jury on Thursday asked Jones to pay the parents $4.1 million in compensatory damages for spreading conspiracy theories about the massacre. That verdict followed a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, where Jones’ radio show and webcast Infowars are based.
Earlier on Friday, forensic economist Bernard Pettingill testified on behalf of Lewis’ parents that Jones ‘promulgated some hate speech and some misinformation’ and ‘made a lot of money.’
Jones and Infowars are worth between $135 million and $270 million combined, Pettingill said.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis testified that Jones’ followers harassed them for years in the false belief that the parents lied about their son’s death.
Jones sought to distance himself from the conspiracy theories during his testimony, apologizing to the parents and acknowledging that Sandy Hook was ‘100% real.’
Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems LLC, declared bankruptcy last week. Jones said during a Monday broadcast that the filing will help the company stay on the air while it appeals.
The bankruptcy declaration paused a similar defamation suit by Sandy Hook parents in Connecticut where, as in Texas, he has already been found liable.
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