Alex Jones: Jury awards $45.2M additional punitive damages
AUSTIN (KXAN) — One day after a jury decided Infowars host Alex Jones owes the family of a Sandy Hook victim millions of dollars, it sat down again to decide other damages he owes: more than $45 million.
The court found last year Jones was liable for claims that the shooting was a hoax and parents were “crisis actors.” Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of a 6-year-old who died, sued Jones for defamation and inflicting mental anguish.
For the past two weeks, jurors have heard testimony in Austin, and on Thursday calculated the first of two sums of money he owes. They returned a verdict of $4.1 million in compensatory damages, or how much the parents were owed for defamation and mental anguish.
On Friday, it considered the second sum: punitive damages, or how much he owes as punishment. It unanimously decided he owed a total of $45.2 million.
The jury heard, for the first time, testimony on Jones’ net worth from forensic economist Dr. Bernard Pettingill Jr., who estimated the combined net worth of Jones and Free Speech Systems, LLC, to be somewhere between $135 million and $270 million.
Throughout the trial, jurors have been able to ask their own questions. One asked Pettingill what the difference was between the net worth of an individual and a company that person owns.
“There’s really no difference,” he said. “You cannot separate Alex Jones from the company.”
Jones’ defense attorney, Andino Reynal, disputed Pettingill’s testimony and said “we didn’t get any evidence as to what Alex Jones actually has today.” At the end of July, Free Speech Systems LLC filed for bankruptcy.
“You rendered a verdict based on reason and sense, which is what you should do again,” Reynal said as he continued his closing argument.
The plaintiffs had originally asked for $150 million in compensatory damages, and $145.9 million in punitive damages.
“Your (Thursday) verdict doesn’t punish or deter thus far in any way — that is what this stage is for,” said Wesley Ball, an attorney for Lewis, in closing arguments. Ball told the jury they have been given two tasks: to punish Jones and deter others “who may want to step into his shoes.”
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