The jury award was much lower than what prosecutors Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin had requested. At the start of the trial, Lewis and Hesselin’s attorneys asked the jury to award their clients $150 million in damages.
A separate, shorter trial is now expected, during which punitive damages will be discussed. Punitive damages are awarded when the court finds that the defendant’s behavior is particularly offensive.
Mark Bankston, the parents’ attorney, told CNN that the plaintiffs are pleased with the jury’s decision, noting that they also received pre-trial money due to the court’s sanctions against Jones.
“Having already received $1.5 million in fines from Mr Jones, the plaintiffs now owe the $5.6 million that Alex Jones will have to pay,” Bankston said.
“Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the result and look forward to putting Mr Jones’ money to good use,” Bankston added. “Mr. Jones, on the other hand, won’t sleep easily tonight. With disciplinary damages and multiple additional defamation cases still pending, it is clear that Mr. Jones’ time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.”
Jones’ lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
Jones himself celebrated the jury’s decision, calling it a “big victory for the truth,” in a video posted online to his conspiratorial executor, Infowars.
“They thought they would shut us down,” Jones said. But that jury understood the truth and resisted the propaganda.”
The jury’s decision is a partial end to a years-long process that began in 2018 when Lewis and Hesselin sued Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, which killed 26 people, Jones said baselessly that the accident was staged. Facing multiple lawsuits, Jones later admitted that the shooting had occurred. He testified in court this week that he now believed it was “100% real”.
But Jones failed to comply with court orders during the lawsuit discovery process. His failure to do so resulted in Heslin and Lewis winning hypothetical sentences against Jones.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled in October that Jones was legally responsible for inflicting emotional distress on Heslin and Louis. Gamble also ruled that Jones was responsible for discrediting Heslin.
Jones claimed in his testimony that only the $2 million jury prize would ruin him financially.
But the accountant now responsible for overseeing Jones’s subsidiary Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his conspiracy media outlet Infowars, testified in bankruptcy court Wednesday that Jones withdrew about $62 million from the company over 14 years, of which about $30 million. It was paid to the IRS.
The accountant testified that Infowars had received about $9 million in cryptocurrency donations and that they “go straight to Mr. Jones.”
The decision to punish Jones on such terms also comes at a seismic moment in American society, where lies and conspiracy theories have flourished in recent years.
The jury’s decision, though much less than what the plaintiffs’ attorneys requested, sends a message to those who push for falsehood in the public conversation, whether for political power or financial gain, that there can be consequences for such behavior.
Sandy Hook family lawyers argued to the jury during their opening statements and closing arguments: “Talk is free, but lies must pay for it.”
Fighting back tears at times, Heslin told the jury that Jones, through his conspiratorial media organization Infowars, had “tarnished the honor and legacy” of his son. Heslin said he couldn’t “even begin to describe the last nine and a half years of hell” he endured because of Jones, detailing how he fears for his safety and that of his family.
In a wonderful moment in court, Lewis spoke directly to Jones, saying she wanted to address him in the face.
“Jesse was real,” Lewis told Jones. “I am a real mother.”
Lewis told the jury that she felt financial damages were appropriate in the case because she did not believe Jones would have stopped his behavior at all.
“There was no sincere apology,” she said. “But if there is, at all, it’s like getting into a car accident and running over someone and causing massive bodily damage and you look at that person lying on the ground and say, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m not responsible for any damage I just did. But I’m sorry. .that’s how I see it.”
Lewis also thought about what it meant that a trial should take place at any time.
“It seems incredible to me that we have to do this,” Lewis told Jones. “We must be asking you – not just pleading with you, we punish you – to get you to stop lying… It’s surreal what’s going on here.”
The trial in Texas is one of three expected to take place over the next two months.
A different group of Sandy Hook families sued Jones in Connecticut. These families also won a default judgment against Jones and the trial was due to begin in September. But jury selection was suspended on the same day it began earlier this week, and the trial may be delayed due to a Free Speech Systems bankruptcy filing.
Lawyers representing some of Sandy Hook Jones’ families have been accused of draining the assets of Free Speech Systems in recent years as part of an effort to protect himself from potential sentences he might be asked to pay.
One of the lawyers, Avi Moschenberg, told CNN on Tuesday that Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy filing indicates that $62 million in assets will be withdrawn from the company in 2021 and 2022.
“If you look at the bankruptcy filing, which led to the declaration of bankruptcy, Alex Jones, the sole proprietor [of Free Speech Systems]He took $62 million in withdrawals in 2021 and 2022. “That is why the company has so few assets.”
CNN’s Sonia Moggi contributed to this report.