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Conspiracy pusher Alex Jones was dealt another major financial blow on Friday after a jury for the second day in a row ruled that he would have to pay millions more in his defamation fight against Sandy Hook parents, bringing the two-day total to over $49 million.
On Friday, a jury ruled that Jones should pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a first-grader killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre after a judge ruled that the Infowars founder defamed them with his frequent comments that they were crisis actors and that the mass shooting — in which 20 students and six teachers were gunned down at the school in Newtown, Connecticut — was staged as a pretext for gun control. A day earlier, the same jury determined that Jones should pay roughly $4.1 million in compensatory damages to the same parents.
A lawyer for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of Sandy Hook victim Jesse Lewis, had asked the jurors to award nearly $146 million in punitive damages, arguing it was the only way to send a lasting message and to “stop the monetization of misinformation and lies.”
“Make sure he cannot do it again,” attorney Wes Ball told jurors. “That is punishment. That is deterrence.”
Jones’s legal team had asked for the amount to be limited to $270,000, noting that the Infowars founder had offered to have Heslin and Lewis on his show as guests and “apologized repeatedly.” After Friday’s verdict, they argued to the judge that the judgment goes outside Texas liability laws that should limit the final award to $750,000 per parent, for a total of $1.5 million.
Speaking to the media after Friday’s verdict, Lewis said it was “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 added.
The second phase of the trial to hear evidence about Jones’s net worth and determine how much to award in punitive damages revealed just how lucrative his Infowars empire became.
In tearful testimony, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis described how their lives had descended into a “living hell” in which they were confronted by strangers and sent death threats by fans of Jones. A forensic psychologist even testified they had endured a form of post-traumatic stress disorder akin to the constant trauma suffered by soldiers in war zones.
“I can’t even describe the last 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 a remarkable moment on Tuesday, Lewis was able to speak directly to Jones from the witness stand, pleading with him to confront the depravity of his actions.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this — that we have to implore you, to punish you — to get you to stop lying,” Lewis said. “I am so glad this day is here. I’m actually relieved. And grateful…that I got to say all this to you.”
The legal and financial reckoning for one of America’s most loathsome conspiracy theorists began in 2018 when multiple families of Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the scene of the crime brought defamation charges against him and Infowars, the website he started in 1999.
For years, Jones tried to delay the trials by failing to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers. These actions eventually prompted courts to rule against him by default and begin a trial to determine damages — the first of which, for Heslin and Lewis, began on July 26.
For his part, Jones remained as evasive and deceitful as ever — even while under oath.
He had to be admonished twice by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble for lying on the stand that he had turned over pretrial information to the plaintiffs and that he was bankrupt. InfoWars’ parent company — not Jones — filed for federal bankruptcy protection last month, but that won’t be determined officially until a final hearing is held.
In one incredible moment on Wednesday, Mark Bankston, attorney for the parents, informed Jones that his lawyers had accidentally sent him the contents of Jones’s cellphone that revealed texts about Sandy Hook he had not turned over, as well as financial information about Infowars. Jones had previously testified that he had searched for texts about the massacre but was unable to find them.
Bankston said Thursday that the US House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol has requested those records.
While on the stand Wednesday, Jones sought to walk back his past claims about Sandy Hook. Having portrayed his trial as a fight for the First Amendment in which he had merely been asking questions about established narratives about mass tragedies, Jones finally conceded the school shooting had been real.
“It was [irresponsible]. Especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100% real,” he said. “[The media] won’t let me take it back. They just want to keep me in the position of being the Sandy Hook man.”
The punitive phase of the jury trial exposed just how lucrative Jones’s Infowars venture had become, generating millions of dollars as Donald Trump rose to power. An economic consultant, Bernard Pettingill Jr., pegged the net worth of the parent company of Infowars, Free Speech Systems LLC, at between $135 million to $270 million.
Within hours of the verdict on Wednesday, Jones was back in an Infowars video, ranting about how he’d been treated in court and claiming the millions of dollars he’ll have to pay as a victory. He also made an appeal for viewers to keep giving him money.
Jones faces two more trials related to his Sandy Hook conspiracies and disinformation — another in Texas, and one in Connecticut brought by multiple families.
“If you don’t fund us, if you don’t buy products in InfoWarsStore.com, we will shut down,” he said.
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