Alex Jones brought on $4 million in damages to 2 Sandy Hook mother and father, jury finds

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Right-wing talk show host Alex Jones will have to pay a little more than $4 million in damages to the parents of Sandy Hook shooting victims, a jury decided Thursday, ending a stunning and dramatic case that showed the public the real-world damage caused by viral conspiracy theories.

The jury’s award was far less than plaintiffs Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin had requested. At the start of the trial, lawyers for Lewis and Heslin asked the jury to award their clients $150 million in damages.

A separate, shorter trial is now expected to consider punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded when the court finds that the defendant’s conduct is particularly offensive.

The parents’ attorney, Mark Bankston, told CNN that the plaintiffs are satisfied with the jury’s decision, noting that they also received money in court for the sanctions the court awarded Jones.

“Having already secured 1.5 million $5.6 million in fines from Mr. Jones, the plaintiffs now have to pay. $ that Alex Jones will have to pay them,” Bankston said.

“Neil and Scarlett are delighted with the result and can’t wait to use Mr Jones’ money,” Bankston added. “On the other hand, Mr. Jones will not sleep easy tonight. With punitive damages still to be decided and numerous additional defamation lawsuits pending, it is clear that Mr. Jones’ time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.

Jones’ attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

The jury’s decision partially ends a years-long process that began in 2018 when Lewis and Heslin sued Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent company of the right-wing media organization Infowars.

Jones wrongly said that after the Sandy Hook shooting, which killed 26 people, the incident was staged. After facing multiple lawsuits, Jones later admitted the shooting took place. He testified in court this week that he now believes it is “100% real.”

However, Jones did not comply with court orders during the discovery process. Failing that, Heslin and Lewis won split decisions 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 liable for defamation of Heslin.

Jones claimed in his testimony that the jury’s award of just $2 million would ruin him financially.

But the accountant who is now in charge of overseeing Jones’ Free Speech Systems, the parent of his conspiracy media outlet Infowars, testified in bankruptcy court Wednesday that Jones siphoned off about $62 million from the company over 14 years. USD, of which about 30 million VMI was paid.

And the accountant testified that Infowars received about $9 million in cryptocurrency donations and that “it went to Mr. Jones.”

The decision to punish Jones in these terms also comes at a seismic moment in American society, where lies and conspiracy theories have flourished in recent years.

The jury’s verdict, while far less than the plaintiffs’ attorneys had asked for, sends a message to those who promote lies into the public conversation, whether for political power or financial gain, that such behavior can have consequences.

“Speech is free, but there is a price for lying,” lawyers for the Sandy Hook family argued to jurors in their opening and closing arguments.

During the trial Heslin and Lewis gave emotional testimony, told jurors that the lies pushed by Jones tarnished their son Jesse’s legacy and tormented them for years.

Fighting back tears at times, Heslin told jurors that Jones had “tarnished his son’s honor and legacy” through his conspiracy media organization Infowars. Heslin said he “can’t even begin to describe the last nine and a half years of hell” he’s been through because of Jones and detailed how he fears for his safety and that of his family.

In an extraordinary moment in court, Lewis spoke directly to Jones, saying he wanted to address him to his face.

“Jesse was real,” Lewis told Jones. “I’m a real mom.”

Lewis told jurors he believed monetary damages were appropriate in the case because he did not believe Jones would have otherwise ever stopped his behavior.

“There was no sincere apology,” she said. “But if it ever happened, I would liken it to being in a car accident and you hit somebody and you do massive bodily harm, and you look at that person on the ground and you say, ‘I’m so sorry.’ Sorry, I’m not responsible for the damage I just did. But I’m sorry. That’s how I see it.”

Lewis also reflected on what it meant for the trial to ever take place.

“It’s so unbelievable to me that we have to do this,” Lewis told Jones. “That we have to beg you — not just beg, but punish you — to stop lying… It’s surreal what’s going on here.”

The trial in Texas is one of three expected to take place in the next couple of months.

Another group of Sandy Hook families sued Jones in Connecticut. Those families also won a default judgment against Jones, and the trial was set to begin in September. But jury selection was halted on the same day it began earlier this week, and the trial may be delayed by Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy filing.

Attorneys representing some Sandy Hook families have accused Jones of siphoning assets from Free Speech Systems in recent years to protect himself from potential judgments he may be ordered to pay.

One of the attorneys, Avi Moshenberg, told CNN on Tuesday that Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy filing indicated that the company was stripped of $62 million in 2021 and 2022.

“If you look at the bankruptcy filing that followed the bankruptcy, Alex Jones, the sole owner of [of Free Speech Systems]62 million dollars in 2021 and 2022,” Moshenberg told CNN. “Just leveling up. That’s why the company has few assets.”

— CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed reporting.

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