A Texas jury 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 punitive damages. The same jury a day earlierin compensatory damages, after Jones had been found liable for defamation 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 his media company, Free Speech Systems, in 2018. The couple originally sought at least $150 million in damages.
The decision comes after a week and a half of sometimes emotional testimony in the trial, as Heslin and Lewis describedby Jones' false claims.
"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 testimony Tuesday, describing the abuse the couple suffered from Jones' followers. The two said people shot at their home and car and that they received threatening emails, among other harassment.
"Jesse was real. I am a real mom," Lewis said in her testimony, addressing Jones. "...I know you know that, and that's the problem."
Jones shook his head in response.
"I know you believe me," she said. "And yet you're going to leave this court house and you're going to say it again on your show."
The "Infowars" host, who faces two more damages trials related to his false claims the shooting was staged, admitted in his testimony the shooting wasbut slammed the trial as a "kangaroo court"
Jones and his company are worth up to $270 million, economist Bernard Pettingill, who was hired by the plaintiffs to study Jones' net worth, testified Friday. Pettingill said records show that Jones withdrew $62 million for himself in 2021, when default judgments were issued in lawsuits against him.
"That number represents, in my opinion, a value of a net worth," Pettingill said. "He's got money put in a bank account somewhere."
The money that flows into Jones' companies eventually funnels its way to him, said Pettingill, who added that he has testified in approximately 1,500 cases during his career.
"He is a very successful man," Pettingill said, calling Jones a "maverick" and "revolutionary" for finding ways to monetize his online messaging.
Jones — who was in the courtroom briefly Friday but left before Pettingill's testimony — told jurors earlier this week that any award over $2 million would "sink us." And a week ago, Free Speech Systems, which is Infowars' parent company, filed for federal bankruptcy protection.
Jones still, one in Texas and one in Connecticut, brought by families of the victims in the Sandy Hook shooting. Judges in each of those trials have already issued default judgments against Jones.
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