Home Defamation Lawsuits Sandy Hook parents awarded $45.2M more in damages from Alex Jones

Sandy Hook parents awarded $45.2M more in damages from Alex Jones

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AUSTIN, TEXAS — After four hours of deliberation, a jury awarded two Sandy Hook parents defamed by Alex Jones $45.2 million in punitive damages Friday.

The figure falls shorts of the $150 million the parents sought, but brings total damages owed to the parents to $49.3 million when the $4.1 million from an initial verdict on Thursday is included. That’s on top of about $1.5 million in sanctions Jones had already been ordered to pay.

As the judge read the verdict, their attorneys shook the hands of Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents to 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. One attorney gave Lewis a hug.


“I think he’s (Jones) been held accountable,” Lewis said afterward to reporters. “And I am hoping that he really takes this to heart because in the end love is a choice, and what he’s putting out there — lies, hatred, fear — that’s a choice too, and I think sometimes we have to have the awareness to have a choice, and I hope going forward that he will choose love.”

Jones was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read. His attorney Andino Reynal immediately challenged the verdict, invoking a state law that caps damages for certain cases at $750,000 for each plaintiff.

More coverage

Sandy Hook parents v. Alex Jones



“I’m sure the judgment will properly conform with the laws of Texas in that regard,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Reynal.

The award comes one day after the same jury required Jones to pay the parents $4.1 million for intentional infliction of mental anguish they endured during years of Jones’ Infowars broadcasts that claimed the death of their son Jesse in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings was a “hoax” committed by “crisis actors.”

The trial that concluded Wednesday focused on how much the jury would award for intentional infliction of mental anguish to the parents, who claimed Jones’ “lies” are causing fear, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, on top of the grief that comes with losing a child. Jurors then heard testimony about Jones’ net worth on Friday.

The parents requested $150 million total — $1 in compensation and $1 in punishment for the estimated 75 million Americans who experts claim don’t believe or doubt the shooting occurred.

The parents have said their goal is to punish Jones for his “lies” in the hope that he and others will think twice about promoting conspiracy theories. They won their defamation lawsuit last year against Jones, who promoted repeatedly that the Sandy Hook shootings that killed their son Jesse were staged or a government “cover up.”

“I got to look into his (Jones’) eyes and I got to tell him what the impact of his actions had on me and my family, and not just us, but all the others and all the people that live in Sandy Hook and the ripple effect that had through the world,” Lewis said.

She took the stand on Wednesday in an emotional testimony that included video footage of her son.

“That was a cathartic moment for me, to literally watch that video that had clips of Jesse running after all the times he said Jesse didn’t exist, to make him sit there and watch that, it was a beautiful moment,” she said Friday.

After the verdict, Lewis and Heslin hung around the fifth floor of the courthouse, smiling and taking photos with their attorneys.

“We did exactly what we came to accomplish,” said Wesley Todd Ball, one of their attorneys.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Reynal said that the punitive award should be capped at $1.5 million in total under Texas law, and that he would make such arguments to the court. In the meantime, he said, Jones would continue broadcasting his show for the foreseeable future.

“He’s going to keep doing his job holding the power structure accountable,” Reynal said, according to KEYE-TV in Austin.

Jones’ company Free Speech Systems, which is also liable in the case, filed for bankruptcy last week, a day after Jones sued the company to be “held harmless” in any jury award.

The Austin case has been called groundbreaking in that the acts of defamation occurred over the span of years. Jones will next face similar defamation damages trials in Connecticut and Texas involving other families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook massacre.

Battle continues

But the fight to hold Jones accountable will continue with sanctions and a battle to keep the verdict intact, their attorney said.

After Reynal said he would challenge the amount of damages the jury determined, Attorney Mark Bankston, representing Heslin and Lewis, pointed out several objections he would be filing on how Jones and Reynal handled the trial, accusing the defense of trying to “hide, destroy and tamper with evidence, and then tell a jury that it’s our fault for not having it.”

Reynal also attempted to get the judge to require Bankston to turn over volumes of text messages his office had inadvertently sent to the plaintiffs. The Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol has asked Bankston for the texts as part of their work, he said Thursday.

“I’m not getting between you and Congress,” Gamble told Bankston when Reynal argued that the data should be returned to the defense.

Gamble gave her blessing for the records to go the Jan. 6 committee, with the exception of any confidential medical information, though Reynal objected, arguing Bankston had surprised the defense with the contents of the phone during testimony.

“We became aware of the inadvertent disclosure while Mr. Jones was on the stand,” Reynal said.

“That’s not true,” Gamble replied. “You’re the one who gave me the email that showed me that you had known about it 12 days earlier.”

Reynal countered that it was “their position,” and said it was her “prerogative to disagree,” at which Gamble laughed.

“I disagree with the written word in front of me,” she said. “Yes, that’s right.”

The materials included psychiatric evaluations of other Sandy Hook parents who sued Jones for defamation, a mistake that led a Connecticut judge to require Reynal and Attorney Norm Pattis, another lawyer representing Jones in Connecticut, to appear in court to discuss the issue in the next few weeks.

Bankston said Thursday that the cell phone records also include “intimate messages” with Rogers Stone, an ally of former President Donald Trump who was subpoenaed alongside Jones by the Jan. 6 committee last year. Shortly after the verdict, Stone was seen in an Infowars video urging viewers to donate to “support” Jones.

Jones’ net worth

Jurors heard additional testimony on Friday from an economist who estimated Alex Jones’ net worth was up to $270 million. That testimony was meant to help them determine the punitive damages Jones and his parent company, Free Speech Systems, must pay.

Jones took to his Infowars platform Thursday night to discuss the initial $4.1 million verdict which he called a “major victory for truth.”

“That’s more money than my company or I personally have, but we are going to work on trying to make restitution there,” Jones said on his Infowars platform after the verdict was read.

“What I did to those families was wrong, but I didn’t do it on purpose,” Jones said before giving his audience a pitch to send money to keep Infowars on the air. “We’re in bankruptcy, we’re all maxed out,” and then added, “if you don’t fund us, if you don’t buy products (from his platform) we will shut down.”

In the first phase of deliberations, the jury decided compensation for Heslin for the loss of his reputation for Infowars coverage that occurred in 2017 — including a report questioning whether he held his son in the hours after he died. The 12-member jury also had to decide how much Heslin and Lewis should receive for the intentional infliction of mental anguish caused by Jones’ false reports that spanned from 2013 to 2018.

The second phase was based on the same incidents of defamation. But the jury had to come back with a unanimous verdict that took into consideration Jones’ net worth.

Jones is probably worth between $135 million to $270 million and has been siphoning money from his main company, Free Speech Systems for years, especially after he lost three defamation lawsuits by default in 2021, according to an expert paid by two Sandy Hook parents in their lawsuit for damages.

Jones withdrew $65 million in September 2021 after Gamble ruled that he had lost the lawsuits to Sandy Hook families by default for not complying with court orders, said forensic economist Bernard Francis Pettingill, Jr. on the stand in a Texas courthouse on Friday.

‘Choose Love’

The parents plan to put the money toward the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, the nonprofit started by Lewis following her son’s death. The nonprofit provides social and emotional learning programs for schools across the globe.

“This money will help us be able to have an even greater impact, this is one of the most powerful ways to keep kids safe in schools,” Lewis said.

“This will enable us to get to the point where we will be able to offer this comprehensive program on an individual basis for about one penny, which has been my dream,” she added.“My dream is that every child gets these essential life skills that are a direct path to flourishing and this will enable us to do that.”

When asked by a reporter whether she got through to Jones, Lewis said “there’s a possibility.”

“He knows he’s been sent a very strong message,” she said. “He’s been held accountable for what he’s done in my case so I hope he makes the right choice going forward.”

Staff writers John Moritz and Jordan Fenster contributed to this story.



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