If you’ve been following this at all then you already know the case has not been going well for Alex Jones. This particular case has two plaintiffs who sued Jones for lying about the death of their son. They had already won default judgments in the case but the jury had to determine how much he would pay. Today they decided on $4 million, which is quite a bit less than the plaintiffs were asking for.
Right-wing talk show host Alex Jones will have to pay the parents of a Sandy Hook shooting victim a little more than $4 million in compensatory damages, a jury decided Thursday, capping a stunning and dramatic case that showcased for the public the real-world harm inflicted by viral conspiracy theories.
The award from the jury was far less than what the plaintiffs, Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, had asked for. At the start of the trial, attorneys for Lewis and Heslin asked the jury to award their clients $150 million in compensatory damages.
A separate, shorter trial during which punitive damages will be discussed is now expected. Punitive damages are awarded when the court finds the defendant’s behavior to be especially offensive.
So $4 million is the minimum but that figure could go up substantially tomorrow when the jury decides on punitive damages. As you’ll see below, Ben Collins said the punitive part of this would be the part about malice so, given the circumstances of this case, we can probably expect the total punitive damages will be much larger that what we’re seeing today.
Jones was not present today when the jury’s decision was announced. This is just the first of several awards Jones is likely to face based on a series of defamation cases he has already lost.
Mr. Jones lost four defamation cases last year that were filed against him by the families of 10 victims of the shooting, which killed 20 first graders and six educators.
Mr. Jones lost those cases by default, after nearly four years of litigation in which he failed to produce documents and testimony ordered by courts in Texas and Connecticut. That set in motion three trials for damages; the one in Austin this week is the first.
In testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Mr. Jones continued to insist that he had complied with court orders to produce documents and testimony in the run-up to the defamation trials. In fact, his losses by default resulted from his failure to produce those materials.
He also repeatedly tried to claim that his right to free speech protected him. But by defaulting in the defamation cases because he failed to comply with discovery by withholding documents and testimony, he lost the opportunity to test that claim at trial. The current trial and the two upcoming trials are only to decide the amount he must pay the families in damages.
So Jones has already lost all of these cases the only question now is how much he’ll owe. Of course, whether the plaintiffs will ever see any of that money is another matter. Jones’ company filed for bankruptcy for the second time during this trial to decide damages. Axios published a story yesterday about what Jones is trying to do:
This time around, he filed the parent company of his Infowars business — at first blush a seemingly more legitimate move.
The catch: He’s still using the small biz-focused subchapter V, for which a business can have no more than $7.5 million in “qualifying debts” in order to be eligible…
That’s the rub. Jones filed FSS for subchapter V bankruptcy in order to deal with litigation damages, but the amount of those damages would almost certainly render the company ineligible to actually use subchapter V.
So it’s not clear what will happen next. The bankruptcy court could allow the filing to go forward on the grounds that Jones didn’t owe more than $7.5 million at the time he filed or it could decide the subchapter V filing is no longer appropriate if the amount he owes tops $7.5 million as soon as tomorrow.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs argues that the only reason his company is bankrupt is because he has withdrawn more than $60 million from it over the past couple years. It sounds as if he’s been trying to shield the money from the judgments he knew was coming. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the courts allow him to do.
Here’s NBC News’ report on the jury’s decision.