Alex Jones says he made a mistake after the Jury’s decision 3:21
New York (WABNEWS Business) — A Texas jury has awarded Alex Jones $45.2 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit brought by the parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis.
The award, which the judge could reduce, came a day after the jury ordered the payment of $4.1 million in compensatory damages.RELATED
Jurors began deliberating around 12:30 p.m. CT on Friday, after Judge Maya Guerra Gamble reminded them that in a default judgment against him, he had already been found liable for defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” against Lewis’s parents, Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin.
In an emotional closing argument Friday, Lewis and Heslin’s attorney, Wesley Todd Ball, told the jury: “We ask you to send a very, very simple message, and that is to stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of disinformation and the lies. Please.”
Ball urged jurors to “dissuade Alex Jones from doing this barbarity again” and to “dissuade others who want to follow in his footsteps.”
Jones’ attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, argued for a much lower sum, suggesting that jurors should multiply Jones’s alleged hourly earnings of $14,000 and the 18 hours he said Jones spoke on Sandy Hook. at Infowars, for a sum of about a quarter of a million dollars.
On Thursday, in the first phase of the trial, the jury awarded the parents $4.1 million in compensatory damages, far less than the $150 million that the parents’ attorneys had requested. In his closing argument, Ball thanked the jury for their decision to award the $4.1 million, saying it had already made a big difference in the parents’ lives, and asked them to award enough punitive damages to that the total amounted to US$ 150 million.
Punitive damages are a form of punishment for a defendant’s behavior. Jones, director of the conspiratorial media outlet Infowars, repeatedly lied about the Sandy Hook massacre. He fomented conspiracy theories about the victims and their families, prompting multiple libel lawsuits. He has since acknowledged that the mass shooting did, in fact, occur.
Jones claimed in his testimony that a $2 million jury award would destroy him financially.
But on Friday morning jurors heard testimony about Jones’s wealth from an economist, Bernard Pettingill, Jr., who estimated Jones has a net worth of between $135 million and $270 million.
Pettingill, Jr., who examined several years of records from 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 really wasn’t, Pettingill, Jr. testified.
“Alex Jones knows where the money is, he knows where that money went and he knows that he’s going to benefit from that money in the end,” Pettingill, Jr. said.
After one of the jurors asked about the difference between Jones’s money and his company’s, Pettingill, Jr. said “you can’t separate Alex Jones from the companies. He is the companies.”
Jones “monetized his act,” he added, even suggesting that Jones could teach a university course on his techniques.
Jones’ scaremongering on Infowars has been accompanied, for many years, by advertisements for supplements, documentaries and other products that Infowars sells. Pettingill, Jr. said the money poured in, identifying nine different companies owned by Jones.
“He’s a very successful man, he spread some hate speech and some misinformation, but he made a lot of money and monetized it,” Pettingill, Jr. said on the stand. “My take on him is that he didn’t ride a wave, he created the wave.”
Jones testified earlier in the week about his alleged financial troubles after social media giants like Facebook and Twitter banned his content from their platforms.
“I remember him saying it, 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 just a drop in Jones’ sea of wealth. “He’s probably already got it back in donations” from his fans, Ball said.