A jury ruled Friday that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay $45.2 million to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting after spending years spreading lies that the shooting didn’t happen.
Jurors deliberated for less than a day before coming to its first decision Thursday that Jones must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages. On Friday, jurors again deliberated for less than a day when deciding further punitive damages against Jones of more than $40 million.
Along with the judgments, Jones will have to pay an additional $1.5 million in sanctions, Houston attorney Mark Bankston told HuffPost.
Jurors in the Austin, Texas, courtroom were tasked with finding an appropriate amount that Jones and Infowars must pay to a pair of Sandy Hook parents, whose 6-year-old boy, Jesse, died in the 2012 Connecticut shooting that left 20 kids and six adults dead.
For years, Jones and his outlet have claimed the shooting was fake, leading to harassment of the families from listeners of his show. Jones lost the case ― along with several others ― before it could even go to trial after a judge ruled default judgment against him for not turning over court-ordered documents related to the case last year.
During his closing argument Friday, attorney Wes Ball thanked jurors for their previous ruling of $4.1 million against Jones but said it wouldn’t be enough to adequately punish him.
“You must make a statement, loud and clear, that the gold rush of misinformation and fear must end, and it must end today,” Ball said before the jury’s final verdict.
Friday’s final verdict could potentially be capped by a Texas law that says punitive damages can’t be more than twice the compensatory damages ($4.1 million) plus an additional $750,000 per plaintiff. Attorney Bankston told HuffPost his team will “litigate that if necessary.”
Jones’ two-week trial has helped peel back the curtain on Infowars’ ethically bankrupt operation and offered a greater glimpse into the profits Jones and his web outlet have reaped while spreading lies about the shooting. On Wednesday, Jones was confronted on the stand with earnings that the Infowars store ― which sells non-FDA-approved supplements along with survival gear ― has made over the years.
On one particularly profitable day, for instance, the store made $800,000. Jones did not dispute the number but complained that lawyers for the plaintiffs were “cherry-picking” his most lucrative days. HuffPost first reported earlier this year that Jones’ store sold $165 million in products from 2015 to 2018. Jones was also recently given $8 million in an anonymous Bitcoin donation. When asked about the donation, Jones told HuffPost outside of court last week that he had already spent it.
Testimony from Jones on Wednesday concluded with a dramatic moment when Jones was confronted with his own text messages, taken from his phone, which had been accidentally handed over to the plaintiffs’ lawyers by his own defense team.
“Did you know 12 days ago your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cellphone, with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years?” Attorney Mark Bankston asked Jones on the stand. “And when informed did not take any steps to identify those texts as privileged?”
Jones did not know, and was confronted with a 2020 text that mentioned Sandy Hook. That’s a problem because Jones previously testified under oath that he’d handed over all communications mentioning Sandy Hook to the court.
“You know what perjury is, right?” Bankston asked Jones.
The trial saw other dramatic moments including a deposition from a former Infowars employee who said he begged staff to stop spreading lies about Sandy Hook, only to be laughed at. And Infowars sidekick Owen Shroyer admitted on the stand that he did nothing to fact-check the accuracy of a bogus story claiming Heslin did not hold his dead child.
“I could have done a better job,” Shroyer said on the stand last week.
“You could have done A job,” attorney Kyle Farrar shot back. “You could have done something.”
On Tuesday, parents Heslin and Lewis finally got to hold Jones’ feet to the fire when they testified about the harm he has caused. Lewis spoke directly to Jones while on the stand, telling him several times to pay attention as she spoke about her son and the damage Jones has caused.
“I wanted to tell you to your face, because I wanted you to know I am a mother first and foremost, and I know you’re a father,” Lewis said to Jones. “My son existed, and you’re still on your show today trying to say I’m fine, I’m an actress, I’m deep state. Stop.”
Lewis also spoke about the last day she had with her son. Jesse was being dropped off at school, and had written “I love you” in the frost that had accumulated on the car. Lewis gave him a big hug, and Jesse went to class.
Lewis now runs a nonprofit, the Choose Love Movement, which teaches social and emotional learning skills to kids in school.
In separate testimony, parent Heslin dismissed Jones’ late supposed apologies.
“Alex Jones’ apologies are worthless,” Heslin testified Tuesday. “At this stage, any apology would not be sincere, it’s gone too late. I don’t even know if Alex is capable of a sincere apology.”
While Heslin was on the stand, Jones was miles away from the courthouse airing an Infowars segment. As Heslin testified, Jones spoke on his program and called the father of Jesse “slow” and “on the spectrum.”