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Alex Jones ordered to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to Sandy Hook family | Newtown shooting

After already ordering $4.1 million to pay the parents of a boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, the jury hearing the defamation case against far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones over his falsehoods about the massacre told to deliver another 45.2 million dollars. to the grieving family that denounced him.

The combined amount of $49.3 million is plenty, but still short of the $150 million that Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the mother and father of murdered six-year-old Jesse Lewis, had demanded over Jones’ repeated lies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders in Newtown. Connecticut, were an elaborate ruse carried out by “crisis actors” bent on forcing gun control reform.

Jones had peddled the lies on his right-wing conspiracist outlet Infowars, as well as on other media platforms.

The jury’s award Thursday was to compensate Heslin and Lewis for Jones’ actions. The single Friday, distributed after four hours of deliberations, was intended to punish Jones for the conduct of the jurors, through their unanimous decision, considered atrocious.

Before the verdict was read, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Wes Ball, asked the jury to send a “very, very simple message.”

“And that’s stopping Alex Jones, stopping the monetization of misinformation and lies,” said an impassioned Ball. “Please.”

Jones’ attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, sought to persuade jurors that they had “already sent a message” to figures like Jones on Thursday.

“Four million dollars is a lot,” Reynal said, adding that he estimated it amounted to tens of thousands of dollars per hour Jones spent covering Sandy Hook.

During a two-week trial that began July 25, Heslin and Lewis testified that Jones’ supporters harassed them for years over the lie that they lied about their son’s death, as well as the murders of 19 other students and six Sandy officials. Hook.

Saying he made healing impossible after their son’s murder, the couple sued Jones for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They won a default judgment in their favor after Jones failed to provide documents in response to their lawsuit, setting up the trial that began last week whose sole purpose was to determine how much Jones owed.

Jones, meanwhile, tried to distance himself from the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories he was promoting, saying he was sorry if he hurt plaintiffs’ feelings while admitting the massacre was “100% real.”

Reynal told jurors during the trial that Jones and his website Infowars had reported “irresponsibly” on Sandy Hook, but maintained that his client could not be held responsible for the actions of his followers.

Friday began with testimony from a financial expert who estimated that Jones and his media company Free Speech Systems were worth a combined $135 million to $270 million. Pettingill added that Jones and his company earned more than $50 million annually between 2016 and 2021 due to his “rabid following” that persisted despite being banned from promoting on popular social media platforms.

According to Pettingill, those estimates were complicated by the fact that Jones used a network of shell companies that own nothing and employ no one to move his money. He also reported loans totaling more than $50 million whose purpose appeared to be to make his worth appear lower, and failed to provide the financial records Pettingill needed for a more accurate assessment.

Jones was getting ready for Friday. Free Speech Systems filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week, a filing that Jones said would help the company stay on the air while it appeals the outcome of the case in the courtroom of Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin.

Jones’ appeal would aim to dramatically reduce the jury’s award against him, if not eliminate it entirely. Reynal argued Friday that $270,000 in punitive damages was fair, relying on a state law that capped such damages well below what the jury awarded.

Free Speech Systems’ recent bankruptcy filing put on hold a similar but larger defamation suit in Connecticut being pursued by numerous Sandy Hook families who also won their case by default due to Jones’ lack of response . Jones also faces another case in Texas brought by other parents.

In addition, as a result of one of the most memorable episodes of the trial heard by Guerra Gamble, Jones could face perjury charges. Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Mark Bankston, revealed to Jones on Wednesday that the conspiracy theorist’s legal team had inadvertently provided text messages he had written since 2019, including ones that apparently contradicted claims under oath that he had nothing on his phone related to with the Sandy Hook murders.

Jones’ team knew about the accidental leak but took no steps to keep the communications out of court, Bankston added. The congressional commission investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. USA has since asked Bankston to hand over those texts, being in the possession of one of former President Donald Trump’s most prominent supporters.

A crowd of Trump supporters, including white supremacist groups, carried out the attack on the Capitol. And the committee wants to see what the ousted president’s team may have had with Jones before the pro-Trump mob tried to disrupt the certification of his defeat to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Unless ordered otherwise by a judge, Bankston said he intended to comply with the committee’s request.

The baseless Sandy Hook conspiracy is far from the only such theory Jones has peddled on Infowars, which is often derided in some quarters for selling pills marketed to help men get firmer erections.

He also lied about a Washington DC pizzeria being home to a child molestation ring, which inspired a man to go there and fire a high-powered rifle inside. Another focused on a myth that a yogurt factory supported child rapists who spread tuberculosis.

Jones was forced to apologize for both. He did not appear in the courtroom for the reading of the verdict on Friday.

Meanwhile, since her son’s murder, Scarlett Lewis has started the Choose Love Foundation, whose mission is to promote social and emotional education as well as general compassion in schools. The foundation’s name honors a message Jesse left on a kitchen chalkboard shortly before he was killed.

Alex Jones ordered to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to Sandy Hook family | Newtown shooting

Source link Alex Jones ordered to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to Sandy Hook family | Newtown shooting

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