Aug. 5 (UPI) — Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was penalized Friday by a Texas jury that said he must pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis.
The decision came after the jury on Thursday decided that Jones must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to Jesse’s parents, Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin.
Jones faced multiple lawsuits after having claimed over the years that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a staged government conspiracy meant to take away guns from Americans.
He was found liable by default and this week faced the first of three trials to determine how much he owes the members of 10 families that filed lawsuits against him.
“We ask that you send a very, very simple message and that is, stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies. Please,” Lewis and Heslin’s attorney, Wesley Todd Ball, told the jury Friday, according to CNN.
The punitive damages are used as punishment and deterrent against future defamatory behavior but could be lowered by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble.
Gamble told the court that she will not prevent the lawyers for Sandy Hook families from giving to law enforcement and the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol an “entire digital copy” of Jones’ cellphone sent to him by Jones’ lawyer, The New York Times reported.
The judge also said that another damages trial against Jones is scheduled for Sept. 14 to determine potential awards to Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of the youngest Sandy Hook victim, Noah Pozner.
“We are very pleased with the result. We think the jury seriously considered the issues. We think the verdict was too high,” Jones’ lawyer, F. Andino Reynal, said outside the courthouse.
“Alex Jones will be on the air today, and he will be on the air next week. He’s going to keep doing his job holding our power structure accountable.”
A financial expert testified Friday that Jones is worth up to $240 million before the jury began deliberations.
The Texas jury heard remarks from economic consultant Bernard Pettingill Jr. and lawyers before breaking to decide Jones’ punishment.
Pettingill said it was difficult to determine Jones and his company’s exact net worth because he used multiple shell companies to move money and failed to disclose some monetary records.
He was able to determine, though, that Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems, earned at least $50 million each year from 2016 to 2021. Pettingill also said Jones paid himself $18 million yearly from 2015 to 2018 and withdrew $62 million in 2021.
Pettingill said he was unable to “put a finger on what [Jones] does for a living,” but described him as “a very successful man,” according to The Guardian.
Additionally, Pettingill testified that after Jones was found to be liable by default in the defamation case, he began putting $11,000 a day into PQPR Holdings, a shell company without any employees that lists Jones as a manager.
He said Free Speech Systems had more than $79 million in debts, a majority of which was in the form of a loan due to PQPR.
Jones was “using that note as a clawback to pay himself back,” Pettingill testified.
“His organization chart is an inverted T, which means everything flows to Alex Jones. Alex Jones made all the major decisions, and I think Alex Jones knows where the money is,” the financial expert said, according to The New York Times. “He can say he’s broke, he has no money, but we know that’s not correct.”
In April, three companies connected to Jones, including InfoWars, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Last year, Jones lost two defamation lawsuits filed by victims of Sandy Hook. In a Connecticut case, a judge said Jones was liable by default for refusing to turn over documents the court demanded about his businesses.