A Texas jury on Friday ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit filed by the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.
The additional damages came a day after the same jury awarded $4.1 million in damages to Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, bringing the total payout to nearly $50 million, although that could be reduced because Texas state law limits non-economic damages.
Jones, a far-right media hotspot, has stirred controversy for years on InfoWars, its website and radio show. The Sandy Hook cases represent the first significant financial threat to Jones and his company — which are estimated to be worth as much as $270 million together, according to an expert who testified on behalf of the parents.
Wesley Ball, the parents’ attorney, urged jurors on Friday to “send a message” with their damages: “Stop Alex Jones, stop the monetization of misinformation and lies.”
“I’m asking that with your ruling you not only take away Alex Jones’ platform that he’s talking about,” Ball added. “I’m asking you to make sure he can’t rebuild that platform.”
Lewis and Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was killed at Sandy Hook, are seeking up to $150 million in damages for emotional distress, saying their lives were made a “living hell” by strangers who sent them death threats and mistakenly believed they were the couple faked their child’s death based on Jones’ comments.
They sued Jones for making a false claim about the 2012 massacre Sandy Hook Elementary Schoolwhere 20 children and six adults were killed, was a hoax staged to justify gun control.
During his testimony, Jones disavowed the false claims his companies were making about the deadliest school shooting in the US, saying it was “100 percent real” and not a “false flag” operation. He also expressed remorse for “unintentionally” hurting people’s feelings.
Jones faces two more trials related to his comments about Sandy Hook. One is being brought to Connecticut by the families of the eight victims, and the other will also be in Texas.
Jones, whose content has been banned from major social media platforms for hate speech, has a large audience of more than 8 million monthly visits, according to Similarweb.
Last week, Jones’ Free Speech Systems, the parent of InfoWars, filed for bankruptcy protection in a move that should potentially limit its financial exposure.
During the proceedings, the plaintiffs’ attorney revealed that Jones’ legal team had inadvertently shared two years’ worth of messages from his phone, adding that he had received requests to share the messages with various authorities, including a congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Attack on the US Capitol.
On Friday, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said she would not prevent the plaintiffs’ lawyers from sharing the messages with police or a congressional committee on Jan. 6.
Additional reporting by Alex Barker