A Texas jury has decided to award Alex Jones $45.2 million in damages in a lawsuit filed by the parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis.
The award, which the judge was able to reduce, came a day after the jury settled on $4.1 million in damages.
The jurors began deliberating around 12:30 a.m. CT Friday, after Judge Maya Guerra Gamble reminded them that Jones was already found liable in a default judgment against him for defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress” against Lewis’ parents, Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin.
In an emotional closing argument Friday, Lewis and Heslin’s attorney Wesley Todd Ball told the jury, “We’re asking you to send a very very simple message, and that is, stop Alex Jones. Stop monetizing misinformation and lies. Please .”
Ball urged jurors to “deter Alex Jones from ever doing this horrible thing again” and “to deter others who might want to step into his shoes.”
Jones’ attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, argued for a much lower sum, suggesting jurors should multiply Jones’ alleged hourly earnings of $14,000 by the 18 hours he said Jones talked about Sandy Hook on Infowars, for a sum of approx. quarter of a million dollars.
Thursday, in the first phase of the trial, the jury awarded the parents $4.1 million in damages, an amount far less than the $150 million the parents’ lawyers had sought. In his closing argument, Ball thanked the jury for their decision to award the $4.1 million, saying it had already made a huge difference in the parents’ lives, and asked them to award enough punitive damages to bring the total amounts up to 150 million dollars.
Punitive damages are a form of punishment for a defendant’s conduct. Jones, the head of the conspiratorial media outlet Infowars, repeatedly lied about the Sandy Hook massacre. He fueled conspiracy theories about the victims and their families, leading to numerous defamation lawsuits. He has since acknowledged that the mass shooting took place.
Jones claimed in his testimony that a jury award of just $2 million would ruin him financially. But on Friday morning, jurors heard testimony about Jones’ wealth from an economist, Bernard Pettingill, Jr., who estimated that Jones has a net worth of between $135 million and $270 million.
Pettingill, Jr., who examined years of records for Jones and Infowars’ parent company Free Speech Systems, said Jones used a series of shell companies to hide his money.
Jones used two large loans to make it look like he was broke when he actually wasn’t, Pettingill, Jr. testified.
“Alex Jones knows where the money is, he knows where that money went, and he knows that he will ultimately benefit from that money,” Pettingill, Jr. said.
After one of the jurors asked about the difference between Jones’ money and his company’s money, Pettingill, Jr. said. “you can’t separate Alex Jones from the companies. He is the companies.”
Jones “made money off his shtick,” he added, even suggesting that Jones could teach a college course on his techniques.
For many years, Jones’ fearsome rants about Infowars have been paired with ads for supplements, documentaries and other products Infowars sells. Pettingill, Jr. said the money flowed in and identified nine different companies owned by Jones.
“He’s a very successful man, he promulgated some hate speech and some misinformation, but he made a lot of money and he made money from it,” Pettingill, Jr. said. on the stand. “My way of thinking about him is that he didn’t ride a wave, he made the wave.”
Jones testified earlier this week about his alleged financial problems after social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter banned his content from their platforms.
“I remember him saying that, but the records don’t reflect that,” Pettingill, Jr. said.
During closing arguments, Ball claimed that Jones has even more money stashed away elsewhere, arguing that $4.1 million was a drop in Jones’ linguistic bucket. “He’s probably already recouped in donations” from fans, Ball said.