American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre — on top of the $4.1 million in compensatory damages already paid. – for falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax, a Texas jury ruled Friday.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, estranged parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, testified that Jones’ followers had harassed them and sent them death threats over the years in the false belief that they would die on Dec. 14. He was lying about his son’s death. 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut kills 20 children and six staff members.
The punitive damages award came a day after 12 jurors awarded compensatory damages after a two-week trial in the defamation case, presided over by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, in state court in the Texas capital, Austin. Jones’ radio show and far-right webcast are based on information.
Jones, a prominent figure in American right-wing circles and a supporter of former President Donald Trump, called the Sandy Hook massacre a fraud by the US government, which used crisis elements as an excuse to take away Americans’ guns.
After the verdict, Lewis told reporters that the trial results showed that “we can choose love,” adding: “We all have a responsibility to each other.”
The parents sought $145.9 million in punitive damages and $150 million in compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for suffering and damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the actions of the defendant.
One of Jones’ attorneys, Federico Andino Renal, had asked jurors to return a verdict of $270,000 in punitive damages based on the number of hours he devoted to Sandy Hook coverage.
Outside court, Reynal told reporters that the verdict was excessive but Texas law mandates punitive damages up to $750,000 per plaintiff.
Rennell later told Reuters his goal was to minimize compensatory damages throughout the trial, knowing there was a cap on punitive damages.
“We always knew it was going to be a backstop, so the strategy worked,” Rennell said, referring to the cap.
Jones was fined $4.2 million for defaming Heslin for holding his dead son after he shot him and $20.5 million for mental anguish to Heslin and Lewis.
“We ask you to send a very simple message, and that is this: Stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies,” the parents’ attorney, Wesley Todd Ball, told jurors Friday. Before they begin discussing punitive damages.
Jones tried to distance himself from conspiracy theories during his testimony at the trial, apologizing to the parents and admitting that Sandy Hook was “100% real”.
The Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle during the massacre, which ended when he killed himself as police sirens approached.
‘A really bad actor’
The judge admonished Jones during the trial for not telling the truth during testimony about his bankruptcy and failure to comply with document requests.
Attorney Doug Merrill, an expert in defamation litigation, said that Jones’s questioning of the truth on the witness stand could have played a role in the jury’s award of punitive damages, noting that there is no reason to award more than compensation. It is trivial. Disadvantages
“The jury may have simply expressed their displeasure at the lie and decided that Mr. Jones was a really bad actor,” Merrill told Reuters.
Forensic economist Bernard Pettingale testified Friday that the net worth of Jones and Infowars was between $135 million and $270 million.
Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems LLC, filed for bankruptcy last week. Jones said during Monday’s broadcast that the filing will help the company stay on the air during the appeal.
The bankruptcy filing halted a similar defamation lawsuit by Sandy Hook’s parents in Connecticut where, like in Texas, he has already been found liable. The bankruptcy would also halt another defamation lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents in Texas, Rennell told Reuters.
During closing arguments Wednesday, the parents’ attorney, Kyle Farrar, urged the jury to end what he called their nightmare and hold Jones accountable for profiting from his son’s death. Rennell acknowledged during his closing arguments that Jones and Infowars reported “irresponsibly” about Sandy Hook but said his client was not responsible for the harassment.
Plaintiffs have accused Jones of approaching the trial in bad faith, citing broadcasts in which they said the proceedings against him were rigged and that the jury pool was filled with people who “did not Know what planet they’re on.”
Rennell vowed Friday that Jones would continue to do his job “holding the power structure accountable.”
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