On Friday, a jury in Texas, Alex Jones’ home state, unanimously decided to sentence him. at a cost of $45.2 millionon top of the They had already ordered him to pay $4.1 million to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The defamation lawsuit was over Jones’ regular rants, on his Infowars website, that Sandy Hook was a hoax, staged, that none of the 20 dead children, or their parents, were even real:
From October 26, 2017: “I don’t know what really happened to Sandy Hook folks. We’ve looked at all sides, we played devil’s advocate from both sides, but I mean it’s as fake as a three dollar bill .”
From January 13, 2015: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my opinion, manufactured.”
The road to reckoning for Alex Jones was as ugly and wild as last week’s lawsuit turned out, reports correspondent Martha Teichner.
Scarlett Lewis, Jesse’s mother, addressed Jones from the stands: “Jesse was real. I’m a real mother… I know you know that; that’s the problem.”
Jesse’s father, Neil Heslin, described the harassment, including death threats, that he and the families of other Sandy Hook victims faced because Jones’ followers believed him. Heslin told the court, “I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years of living hell that I and others have endured.”
Jones testified, “I did some things that were wrong, and I didn’t do it on purpose, and I apologize.”
During one of the many jaw-dropping moments in court last week, a suddenly remorseful Alex Jones admitted he had lied. “Especially since I met the parents, and, uh, it is 100% real,” he claimed.
Rikki Klieman, CBS News legal analyst, told Teichner: “Alex Jones is exposed as a liar, and then when Alex Jones admits, admits that he knew this was happening at Sandy Hook and that it wasn’t a hoax, if that didn’t give you the shivers then I don’t remember.”
Another such moment: the revelation that Jones’ lawyer had accidentally sent years of text messages to the other side prove he lied – phone records that Jones swore did not exist. They are now of interest for the committee of January 6.
Klieman said: “There is certainly a possibility that a prosecutor in this case will look at the file and say, ‘This is someone who committed perjury.'”
Teichner asked, “How much trouble is he really in?”
“I think Alex Jones is in a whole world of trouble,” she replied.
As an afterthought to the drama inside, outside the courtroom, Jones yelled “witch hunt.”
“This is a kangaroo track,” he said. “This is a political action.”
And then he cried poor. His company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy.
Forensic economist Bernard Pettingill testified that Jones and his company are worth between $135 and $270 million, and that he forecloses money in shell companies.
He told the judges: “Alex Jones, as much as he is an outsider, he is also an outsider, he is a very successful man. … Everything flows to Alex Jones. I think Alex Jones has made all the important decisions, and I think Alex Jones knows where the money is.”
Will Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin see that the money they hoped would act as a deterrent would prevent Alex Jones and others from taking advantage of spreading lies? Probably not. Texas limits punitive damages. That $45 million will probably be knocked way down.
And his attorney stated that when the trial is over, Jones will continue his show. “Alex Jones will be on the air today, he will be on the air tomorrow, he will be on the air next week,” he said.
But Jones still faces other trials, in Texas and Connecticut, where lies can prove much more expensive.
“What a verdict really means is telling the truth,” Klieman said. “Will it really change the thrust of the information age, the lies, the misinformation, the subterfuge, the falsehood? I don’t think we know yet, but at least it’s a start.”
Story produced by Mary Raffalli. Editor: Mike Levine.