A Texas jury has ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay the parents of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim $45.2 million in punitive damages. The same jury a day beforein compensatory damages, after Jones had been found liable for defamation by a judge for his claims that the shooting was “a hoax.”
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was one of 20 children and six adults killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., sued Jones and his media company , Free Speech Systems, in 2018. The pair originally sought at least $150 million in damages.
The decision comes after a week and a half of sometimes emotional testimony in the trial, as described by Heslin and Lewis.for Jones’ false claims.
“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the hell that I and others have had to go through because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Heslin said in testimony Tuesday, describing the abuse that the couple suffered. Followers of Jones. The two said people shot at their home and car and received threatening emails, among other harassment.
“Jesse was real. I’m a real mom,” Lewis said in her testimony, addressing Jones. “…I know you know, and that’s the problem.”
Jones shook his head in response.
“I know you believe me,” he said. “And yet you’re going to leave this court and say it again on your show.”
The “Infowars” host, who faces two more lawsuits for damages related to his false claims about the shooting, admitted in his testimony that the shooting wasbut called the trial a “kangaroo court”
Jones and his company are worth as much as $270 million, economist Bernard Pettingill, who was hired by the plaintiffs to study Jones’ net worth, testified Friday. Pettingill said records show Jones withdrew $62 million for himself in 2021, when default judgments were issued on lawsuits against him.
“That number represents, in my opinion, a net worth,” Pettingill said. “He has money in a bank account somewhere.”
The money that flows into Jones’ companies eventually goes to him, said Pettingill, who added that he has testified in roughly 1,500 cases during his career.
“He’s a very successful man,” Pettingill said, calling Jones “maverick” and “revolutionary” for finding ways to monetize his online messages.
Jones, who was briefly in the courtroom Friday but left before Pettingill’s testimony, told jurors earlier this week that any award of more than $2 million “would sink us.” And a week ago, Free Speech Systems, which is the parent company of Infowars, filed for federal bankruptcy protection.
Jones yet, one in Texas and one in Connecticut, brought by families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. Judges in each of those trials have already issued default judgments against Jones.