The award from the jury was much less than what the plaintiffs, Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, had requested. At the start of the trial, attorneys for Lewis and Heslin asked the jury to award their client $150 million in punitive damages.
A separate, shorter trial is expected in which punitive damages will be discussed. Compensatory damages are awarded when the court finds the defendant’s conduct particularly offensive.
Mark Bankston, an attorney for the parents, told CNN that the plaintiffs were satisfied with the jury’s decision, noting that they also received money before the trial due to sanctions the court had imposed on the court. Jones.
“Having received $1.5 million in fines from Mr Jones, the plaintiffs are now due the $5.6 million that Alex Jones will have to pay them,” Bankston said.
“Neil and Scarlett are delighted with the results and look forward to making good use of Mr Jones’ money,” Bankston added. “On the other hand, Mr. Jones will not sleep well tonight. With punitive damages still undecided and numerous additional defamation lawsuits pending, it is clear that Mr. Jones’ time on the American stage is at an end. It’s also coming to an end.”
An attorney for Jones could not be reached immediately for comment.
The decision from the jury is part of the end of a years-long process that began in 2018 when Lewis and Heslin sued Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent company of right-wing media organization Infowars .
Jones said baselessly after the Sandy Hook shooting that left 26 people dead, that the incident was staged. Facing multiple lawsuits, Jones later admitted the shooting happened. He testified in court this week that he believes it is “100% real”.
But Jones failed to comply with the court order during the discovery of the case. His failure to do so resulted in Heslin and Lewis winning default judgments against Jones.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled in October that Jones was legally responsible for causing emotional distress to Heslin and Lewis. Gamble also ruled that Jones was responsible for defaming Heslin.
Jones claimed in his testimony that a jury award of just $2 million would ruin him financially.
But the accountant now overseeing Jones’s company Free Speech Systems, the parent company of the Infowars media, testified in bankruptcy court Wednesday that Jones withdrew about $62 million from the company in 14 years, of which about 30 million dollars. was paid to the IRS.
And the accountant testified that Infowars had received about $9 million in crypto donations and that “they went directly to Mr. Jones.”
The decision to punish Jones with such terms also comes at a seismic time in American society, where lies and conspiracy theories have flourished in recent years.
The jury’s decision, though far less than what the plaintiff’s attorneys demanded, sends a message to those who tell lies in public conversation, even for power. political or financial interests, that there may be consequences for such conduct.
Attorneys for the Sandy Hook family argued with the jury in their opening and closing arguments: “Words are free, but lies pay a price.
Sometimes holding back tears, Heslin told the jury that Jones, through his conspiratorial media organization, Infowars, had “stained the honor and legacy” of his son. Heslin said he “can’t even describe the last nine and a half years of hell” he endured because of Jones, and detailed how he feared for his safety and that of his family. .
In a remarkable moment in court, Lewis spoke directly to Jones, saying she wanted to speak to him in front of him.
“Jesse was real,” Lewis told Jones. “I’m a real mother.”
Lewis told the jury that she felt monetary damages were appropriate in the case because she did not believe Jones would ever stop her conduct.
“There hasn’t been a single sincere apology,” she said. “But if there was, I liken it to a car accident and you run over someone and cause massive bodily harm and you look at that person lying on the ground and say, ‘I’m so sorry. sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m not responsible for any damage I just caused. But I’m sorry.’ That’s how I see it.”
Lewis also pondered what it meant for the trial to take place.
Lewis told Jones: “It seems unbelievable to me that we have to do this. “That we have to beg you – not just beg you, punish you – to make you stop lying… What’s going on here is so surreal.”
The Texas trial is one of three scheduled to take place over the next few months.
Another Sandy Hook family group sued Jones in Connecticut. Those families also won a default judgment against Jones and a trial is expected to begin in September. But jury selection was suspended on the same date it started earlier this week, and the trial could be delayed because of a bankruptcy petition from the Free Speech System.
Attorneys representing several of the Sandy Hook families have accused Jones of draining Free Speech System assets in recent years as part of an effort to protect himself from potential convictions that he may not have received. he may have to pay.
One of the lawyers, Avi Moshenberg, told CNN on Tuesday that bankruptcy filings filed by Free Speech Systems indicated that $62 million in assets had been withdrawn from the company in 2021 and 2022.
“If you look at the bankruptcy filing, which resulted in bankruptcy, Alex Jones, sole proprietor [of Free Speech Systems], which pulled in $62 million in draws in 2021 and 2022,” Moshenberg told CNN. Just frankly draw the lottery. That is why the company has few assets. “
– CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed reporting.