AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — An Austin, Texas jury found Infowars host Alex Jones must pay more than $4 million to the family of Sandy Hook shooting victim victim over claims on the show the shooting was a hoax and parents were crisis actors.
The verdict, returned on Thursday, marks the first of two sums of money the jurors have been asked to calculate after hearing nearly two weeks of testimony in the case.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, who lost their 6-year-old son Jesse in the 2012 mass shooting, sued Jones for defamation and inflicting mental anguish. Jones was found liable by the court last year; the jury was tasked with coming up with the amount of actual damages he owes to compensate Heslin and Lewis.
The plaintiffs asked the jury to consider awarding $150 million — a dollar for each of the parents representing the 75 million Americans they say believed Sandy Hook was or could have been fake.
Mark Bankston, the attorney for the family, told reporters his team and the family were very pleased with the verdict returned by the jury. He said they knew they had to “shoot for the moon.”
He said his clients were not asking for compensation for medical bills or lost wages, but purely for mental stress.
“It’s been a long journey, and it’s really nice to say to able to turn and look at my clients and say he can’t get off scot-free for this,” he said. Bankston went on to say, “After tomorrow, he’s going to owe a lot more.”
Jones and his team are bracing for a second verdict from this jury with additional, punitive damages — likely to be returned later this week.
Jones’ defense attorney, Andino Reynal, argued during closing statements the plaintiffs had not brought enough evidence that Jones’ words caused their anguish or to justify that large of a verdict.
Jones’ team argued the plaintiffs have not brought enough evidence to show Jones’ words caused their anguish or to justify that large of a sum.
“So much of their argument is all about punishment,” Jones’ attorney Andino Reynal said. “I am going to talk to you guys about punishment when the time comes. Right now, I am going to talk to you guys about actual damages.”
After the jury’s verdict, he said, “On behalf of the entire legal team, today was an absolute vindication for the American legal system. We are very pleased with the verdict thus far, and we look forward to presenting the rest of the case.”
Earlier in the week, Jones, Heslin and Lewis all testified in the case. During her testimony, Lewis spoke directly to Jones from the stand.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this: that we have to implore you — to punish you — to get you to stop lying,” Lewis said, looking Jones in the eyes.
Bankston said they will bring a financial expert to testify on Friday about Jones’ net worth, which the jury has not heard testimony about yet. Then, the jury will be given their charge to determine punitive damages.
Last week, Jones filed for bankruptcy protections for the parent company of Infowars, Free Speech Systems, LLC.