The jury has ordered Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million to the parents of Jesse Hill as compensatory damages for the pain that he (and his mindless supporters) inflicted on them by his reckless claims that the Sandy Hook massacre in which Jesse died was a hoax and that the grieving parents were crisis actors.
The lawyers had asked for $150 million so this is a lot less but it could have been a much worse. The jury in Texas had to award something since Jones had already had a default judgment against him but they could have levied a nominal fine of just $1 if they had sided with him.
The trial is not over though. This award was just for compensation for the suffering of the parents and is meant to represent the costs of the real injury they suffered. The jury now has to decide on whether to award punitive damages against Jones. Punitive damages are meant as punishment for reckless and egregious behavior, in order to send a message and deter future such actions and hence it is hard to put a figure to it. Since it is meant to inflict pain, it depends on how much they think the person has in assets, since there is little point in a financial penalty that the defendant can easily afford.
Hence there has been considerable effort to try and determine the size of Jones’s assets and his various bankruptcy and other ploys have been to try and hide his wealth.
A financial expert testifying for the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting has estimated that Alex Jones and his media company are worth between $135m and $240m as they seek punitive damages beyond the $4.1m they secured a day ago for the US conspiracy theorist’s falsehoods about the massacre.
The expert, Bernard Pettingill, said from the witness stand in an Austin courtroom that Jones and his Free Speech Systems company earned more than $50m annually between 2016 to 2021 – even as popular social media companies banned him from promoting himself through them – due to his “rabid following” of millions.
Pettingill added that it was difficult to get an exact read of Jones’s financial outlook because he used a web of shell companies that own nothing and employ no one to move money belonging to him around.
We may get the jury’s verdict on this later today.
Andrew G. says
If punitive damages are awarded, they will be trivial (whatever the jury says) because Texas has a cap on punitive damages that the jury isn’t allowed to be told about. For noneconomic compensatory damages, which is basically everything outside of simple monetary loss, punitive damages can’t exceed $750k except in cases where the cap doesn’t apply.
Andrew G. says
And the jury has awarded $45.2 million, prior to applying the statutory cap.
Plaintiff’s lawyer has made noises about challenging the cap, but frankly I don’t rate his chances.