A Texas jury has decided to penalize Alex Jones with $45.2 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit brought by the parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis.
“Care and concern is so important and we’ve seen what happens when there’s a shortage of that, and so I hope we all come home tonight and everyone who is reading these articles and listening to this message and you choose love with your kids, because you can,” Lewis said Friday after learning of the jury’s decision.
“That means being present in the moment with them, looking them in the eye, giving them a hug and just moving on from there. In each moment, realize that you have a choice and your choice is love.”
Jurors began deliberating at around 2:30 pm ET this Friday, after Judge Maya Guerra Gamble recalled that, in a standard trial against him, Jones was already found liable for defamation and “intentional infringing on emotional distress.” ” against Lewis and Heslin.
In an emotional closing argument on Friday, Lewis and Heslin’s attorney Wesley Todd Ball told the jury: “We ask that you send a very simple message, and that is, stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies. Please”.
After the jury’s decision was announced in court, Jones’ attorney, Andino Reynal, immediately raised the issue of Texas law and the amount of punitive damages. After the lawsuit, he addressed himself again while speaking outside the courtroom.
“We think the verdict was too high. As for punitive damages, Texas law caps it at $750,000 per plaintiff, so today’s verdict equates to $1.5 million in penalties. Alex Jones will be on today, he will be on tomorrow, he will be on next week. He will continue to do his job by holding the responsible power structure. That’s our only statement,” Reynal said after the courthouse.
Judge Gamble acknowledged Reynal’s objection in court, but did not immediately rule on it.
“So we have laws in Texas where we claim to trust our jurors and then we don’t trust our jurors, and that’s true,” Gamble said at the time. “And I’m sure the judgment will adequately reflect the laws of Texas in that regard, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
THE CNN contacted a lawyer for the plaintiffs to comment on Reynal’s argument.
During closing arguments, Ball urged jurors to “stop Alex Jones from doing this horror again” and “to stop others who might want to step in in his place.”
Reynal had argued for a much smaller amount, suggesting that jurors should multiply Jones’s alleged hourly earnings of $14,000 and the 18 hours Jones talked about Sandy Hook on Infowars, for a sum of about a quarter of a million dollars. dollars.
On Thursday, in the first phase of the trial, the jury awarded the parents $4.1 million in damages, far less than the $150 million the parents’ lawyers had asked for. In his closing argument, Ball thanked the jury for its decision to award the $4.1 million, saying it had already made a huge difference in the parents’ lives, and asked them to award enough punitive damages to take the full amount. to US$ 150 million.
Punitive damages are a form of punishment for the defendant’s behavior. Jones, the head of the conspiratorial media Infowars, has lied repeatedly about the Sandy Hook massacre. He fanned conspiracy theories about the victims and their families, sparking numerous defamation suits. He has since acknowledged that the mass shooting took place.
Jones claimed in his testimony that a $2 million jury prize would destroy him financially. But on Friday morning, jurors heard testimony about Jones’ wealth from an economist, Bernard Pettingill Jr., who estimated Jones has a net worth of between $135 million and $270 million.
Pettingill Jr., who reviewed several years of records for Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, said Jones used a number of shell companies to hide his money.
Jones used two big loans to make it look like he was broke when he wasn’t, Pettingill Jr. witnessed.
“Alex Jones knows where the money is, he knows where that money has gone, and he knows he will eventually benefit from that money,” said Pettingill Jr.
After one of the jurors asked about the difference between Jones’ money and his company’s money, Pettingill Jr. said that “you can’t separate Alex Jones from the companies. He belongs to the companies.”
Jones “monetized his gimmick,” he added, even suggesting that Jones could teach a college course on his techniques.
Jones’ speeches at Infowars have, for many years, been paired with advertisements for supplements, documentaries and other products that Infowars sells. Pettingill Jr. said the money was deposited, identifying nine different companies owned by Jones.
“He’s a very successful man, he has promulgated some hate speech and some disinformation, but he has made a lot of money and monetized it,” said Pettingill Jr. on the witness stand. “My thinking about him is that he didn’t ride a wave, he created the wave.”
Jones testified earlier this week about his alleged financial woes after social media giants Facebook and Twitter banned his content from their platforms.
“I remember him saying that, but the records don’t reflect that,” said Pettingill Jr.
During closing arguments, Ball claimed that Jones has even more money hidden elsewhere and argued that $4.1 million was a drop in Jones’ proverbial bucket. “He’s probably already managed to get back on donations” from fans, Ball said.
Source: CNN Brasil