Alex Jones ordered to pay $45.2 M to Sandy Hook parents

Alex Jones was ordered Friday to pay more than $45 million in punitive damages to the parents of one of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

The Texas jury ruling came down one day after the far-right Infowars host was ordered to fork over $4.1 million in compensatory damages for claiming that the Newtown, Conn. school shooting was a hoax meant to increase support for gun control.

An attorney for parents Scarlett Lewis and Neil Helsin had asked the panel to deliver a verdict big enough to “take the bullhorn away” from Jones, NBC News reported.

“I ask that with your verdict, you not only take Alex Jones’ platform that he talks about away. I ask that you make sure that he can’t rebuild the platform. That’s what matters,” lawyer Wesley Ball said. “That is punishment, that is deterrence.”

Jones had claimed that the mass shooting was staged or faked using actors. The mass shooting killed 20 first-grade students and six staffers at the school, including Lewis and Helsin’s 6-year-old son, Jesse.

Victims family leave a firehouse staging area following a shooting at the Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012.
Jessica Hill/AP

When the Austin jury first awarded the $4.1 million in compensatory damages, Jones called it a major victory. But the additional punitive damages bring the total to $49.3 million.

Jones had testified that any award that came in at more than $2 million would “sink” Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems. The company filed for bankruptcy protection at the start of the two-week trial, during which Jones admitted under oath that the shooting was “100% real.”

A plaintiff-hired economist had estimated Jones and the company were worth as much as $270 million, and that he withdrew $62 million for himself last year as he faced default judgments in lawsuits. Jones has faced accusations of trying to hide his wealth amid a slew of legal cases.

Jones’ attorneys claimed that their client had learned his lesson and asked for the penalty to be under $300,000, according to the Associated Press.

“You’ve already sent a message,” attorney Andino Reynal said. “A message for the first time to a talk show host, to all talk show hosts, that their standard of care has to change.”

Neil Heslin, father of 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis, becomes emotional during his testimony during the trial for Alex Jones on August 2.
Neil Heslin, father of 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis, becomes emotional during his testimony during the trial for Alex Jones on August 2.
Briana Sanchez/Austin American-Statesman/AP

The parents had testified Tuesday about how the hoax had affected them, claiming that their lives had been threatened and they had been the subject of online harassment.

Jones took the stand as the only defense witness and in a now-viral moment was confronted by a plaintiff attorney who revealed the host’s legal team had accidentally shared the contents of his cellphone and neglected to claim them as privileged.

Jones had insisted under oath that he found no texts and emails about the mass shooting when the records were requested as pre-trial evidence.

“Do you know what perjury is?” lawyer Mark Bankston asked Jones on the stand.

The blunder may have consequences outside the Sandy Hook case.

Bankston told the court Thursday that the House select committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot had requested records from the phone — and the attorney later said that he planned to comply with the committee’s request.

With Post wires