- A jury ordered Alex Jones to pay more than $49 million in costs for defaming Sandy Hook’s parents.
- This includes $45.2 million in punitive damages, capped at $750,000 by Texas law.
- Even with the reduced damages, the jury’s decision still sends a message, legal experts said.
A jury on Friday ordered Alex Jones to pay the parents of Sandy Hook victims more than $45 million as punishment for the lies he told about the shooting killing their son — but the amount will likely be reduced .
Parents Neil Hesling and Scarlett Lewis are suing Jones and his media company for defaming him claiming the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was a “hoax.” Their 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, was one of 26 people killed. Jones has repeatedly spread lies about the shooting, but this week admitted it was true in court.
On Thursday, a jury awarded the parents $4.1 million in damages aimed at compensating the injured party. That’s far less than the $150 million their lawyers are seeking. The next day, the jury reached a heavier verdict in punitive damages, ordering Jones to pay $45.2 million. As the name suggests, punitive damages are designed to punish wrongdoers.
However, Texas, where Jones and his company are based, has a cap on punitive damages, meaning he could end up being ordered to pay much less.
“Texas capped punitive damages for emotional distress at $750,000, so $45.2 million in damages could be reduced,” former U.S. Attorney and President Neama Rahmani West Coast Trial LawyersSay.
Under the $750,000 cap, Jones could be ordered to pay each plaintiff that amount, a total of $1.5 million — just over 3 percent of the jury’s determination of the appropriate punishment for his lies.
When the jury’s verdict was read, Jones’ attorneys raised the cap in court, Judge Maya Gragamble admit and say “We do have laws in Texas where we claim to trust our jury, but we don’t trust our jury.”
Gamble did not take immediate steps to resolve the discrepancy, but Jones’ attorneys said he would file a motion to reduce damages, at which point a judge could reduce the sentence.
Jones’ attorney also told reporters outside the court that he believes the verdict is too high, and because of the cap, he believes the punitive damages will eventually reach $1.5 million.
Parents’ lawyer Mark Bankston told Bloomberg Law If the court takes steps to reduce punitive damages, he will fight back against the court.
“We do not believe the punitive damages cap that applies to our case is constitutional, and would certainly bring a case against the issue if necessary,” he said.
Damages cap Relatively common in the United States, although they vary by state.
Joshua RitterA Los Angeles-based criminal attorney told Insider that while damages may be reduced, the jury’s decision sends a message that “the Sandy Hook shooting is a tragedy that people in the media cannot use to attract more Audience. Or increase your own visibility.”
“It’s not only disrespectful and disgusting, it’s illegal,” he said, adding that another defamation case against Jones will soon follow in Connecticut, which has stronger laws than Texas. May benefit parents.
Ritter said he thinks most defendants who get the verdict will rush to settle the Connecticut case rather than risk another jury returning an equally large award. But he noted that Jones “will not operate under the same rules as anyone else.”
This week’s trial marks the first time Jones has been ordered to pay damages related to his Sandy Hook claim. He is awaiting an additional trial to determine how much he will have to pay the other Sandy Hook families who sued. He also recently filed for bankruptcy on behalf of his media company, a move that the Sandy Hook family and legal experts say appears to be an attempt to avoid payouts.
The defamation lawsuit could be just the beginning of Jones’ legal troubles, as legal experts told Insider Jones could face perjury charges after revelations in court this week suggested he may have lied under oath.