New York (CNN Business)Right-wing talk show host Alex Jones must pay parents Sandy Hook shooting victims were awarded more than $4 million in damages Thursday, in a stunning and dramatic case that exposes the real-world harm wrought by viral conspiracy theories to the public
The ruling from the jury was far less than what plaintiffs Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin were seeking.At the start of the trial, Lewis and Heslin's attorneys It asked a jury to award $150 million in compensatory damages to the client.
Another brief trial is currently scheduled in which punitive damages will be discussed. Punitive damages are awarded when the court finds the defendant's conduct to be particularly offensive.
Mark Bankston, the parents' attorney, told CNN that the plaintiff was satisfied with the jury's decision and had received money before trial due to the sanctions imposed on Jones by the court.
"We have already secured a fine of $1.5 million from Mr. Jones, and the plaintiff owes $5.6 million, which Alex Jones must pay," Bankston said. Told.
"Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to putting Mr Jones' funds to good use," added Bankston. "On the other hand, Mr. Jones will not be able to rest in peace tonight. With punitive damages still pending and multiple defamation lawsuits pending, Mr. Jones on the American stage will not be able to rest in peace."
Jones' attorneys were not available for comment.
Jones himself praised the jury's decision, calling it "a big victory for truth" in a video posted online on conspiracy-theory information site Infowars.
"They thought they were shutting us down," said Jones. "But that jury got the truth and resisted the propaganda." It is a partial closure to a years-long process that began when he sued Speech Systems.
Jones, in the aftermath of the Sandy He Hook shooting that killed 26 people, irrationally stated that the incident was a hoax. Although he faced multiple lawsuits, Jones later admitted the shooting occurred, which he testified in court this week that he believed it was "100% real."
However, Jones did not comply with the court's order in the discovery process of the lawsuit. His failure led to Heslin and Lewis winning a default judgment judgment against Jones.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled in October that Jones was legally responsible for causing emotional distress to Heslin and Lewis. Gamble also ruled that Jones was responsible for Heslin's defamation.
Jones claimed in testimony that a jury prize of just $2 million would ruin him financially. An accountant in charge of overseeing Infowars' parent company, Free Speech Systems, testified in bankruptcy court Wednesday that Jones pulled about $62 million out of the company over 14 years. , of which about $30 million went to his IRS.
And the accountant testified that Infowars had received about $9 million in cryptocurrency donations, "directly to Mr. Jones."
The decision to punish Jones for such language also came at a turbulent moment in American society, where lies and conspiracy theories have been rampant in recent years.
Jury Decision Although much lower than what plaintiffs' attorneys were seeking, it does send the message that there can be consequences for those who drive lies into public discourse for political power or financial gain. Send. Such behavior.
"Speech is free, but lies have a price," Sandy Hook family lawyers told the jury in opening and closing statements. During,Heslin and Lewis gave emotional testimony, telling jurors that the lies Jones forced tainted their son Jesse's legacy and plagued them for years. 53} Through the conspiratorial media organization Infowars, Heslin told jurors, sometimes holding back tears, that Jones had "damaged the honor and legacy" of his son. Heslin said he "can't even explain the hell of the past nine and a half years" he's endured for Jones, detailing how he fears for the safety of himself and his family. 55} In a surprising moment in court, Lewis said he wanted to speak directly to Jones and speak to him face to face.
"Jesse was real," Lewis told Jones. He said he felt monetary damages were appropriate because he believed he would not stop acting.
"There was no sincere apology." , was in a car accident, was run over by someone and caused extensive bodily harm, saw that person lying on the ground and said, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I'm not responsible for the damage I caused. But I'm sorry, but that's the way I see it."
Lewis also thought about the implications that a trial had to take place.
"It is unbelievable to me that this has to be done," Lewis said to Jones.
Another group of Sandy Hook families sued Jones in Connecticut. The trial was set to begin in 2018. Sept. But jury selection was suspended on the same day it began earlier this week, delaying the trial due to a bankruptcy filing from Free Speech Systems. As part of an effort to protect himself from potential judgment, the property's voice system in recent years ordered him to pay that he may o
at one of the attorneys. Avi Moshenberg told CNN on Tuesday that the bankruptcy filing filed by Free Speech Systems showed that $62 million in assets were withdrawn from the company in 2021 and 2022.
"Looking at the bankruptcy filings leading up to the bankruptcy declaration, Alex Jones, the sole owner of [the free speech system], has drawn $62 million in 2021 and 2022." Moschenberg told CNN. "It pulls straight in. So the company has very few assets."
-- CNN's Sonia Moghe contributed to the report.