In a 10-day trial filled with bellicose theatrics, rebukes and grief, the jury in the Alex Jones defamation case decided Friday that Jones owes Sandy Hook parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis $45.2 million in punitive damages.
Jones’ attorney, F. Andino Reynal objected to the massive amount awarded by arguing that Texas law caps the amount that juries may award.
The day before the jury awarded the parents $4.1 million in compensatory damages. Heslin and Lewis lost their six-year-old son Jesse when Adam Lanza massacred 20 schoolchildren and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Early Friday, Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble asked jurors before deciding punitive damages to consider “the extent to which such conduct offends a public sense of propriety.”
In addressing the jury in final arguments, Reynal said, “Alex Jones was absolutely reckless. It was wrong and he admits it. Now, when you look at the degree of culpability of Alex Jones, keep in mind the national conversation. Keep in mind the truthers who were online and have been online.”
Thursday’s decision to award $4.1 million in compensatory damages was far less than what was suggested by the parents’ counsel. Attorney Mark Bankston had argued for an award of $150 million. Following the decision, Bankston told reporters, “A practical fear for Mr. Jones is if he’s going to have to walk out of this courtroom paying $50 million dollars or is he going to have to walk out of this courtroom paying $6 million dollars.”
Following the verdict Friday Scarlett Lewis tweeted: “Sandy Hook happened. Jesse was a hero. Alex Jones was held accountable. Today the jury proved that most of America is ready to choose love over fear and I’ll be forever grateful to them.”
Judge Gamble issued a default judgment against Jones for failing to comply with discovery requests in the suit brought by Heslin and Lewis for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claims accused him of spreading lies on his InfoWars program and platforms from 2013 to 2018 about what occurred Dec. 14, 2012.
During the trial, the defense only put Jones on the witness stand and he stated that Sandy Hook was “100% real.” Notwithstanding, Jones’ legal team told jurors they should only award $1 for each of the eight counts against him.
During a dramatic reveal under cross-examination, Bankston told Jones that his attorneys had “messed up” and inadvertently forwarded two years’ worth of texts to opposing counsel.
Jones faces two more defamation trials with the next one occurring in September in Texas and a third trial in Connecticut.
New York Times First Amendment Watch Deep Dive on Alex Jones