A Texas jury on Thursday ordered Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook shooting after a judge last year found him liable for defamation for calling the attack a hoax, capping a raucous week in court for the founder of Infowars.
Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse was murdered at the Connecticut elementary school in 2012, initially sought $150 million in compensatory damages from Jones, whose business filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. It is the first of three trials determining how much Jones will pay the families he defamed. The other trials, scheduled for September, are now on hold due to the bankruptcy filing.
After spending years dismissing the 2012 attack that killed 20 children and six adults as a false-flag operation to erode gun rights, Jones acknowledged the seriousness of the case earlier this week, admitting that the attack was “100 percent real.” But as is the case whenever the far-right broadcaster is placed in front of a microphone, the courtroom has largely been a circus of wild claims and misinformation.
The trial’s most inspired moment of stupidity came when the plaintiffs’ lawyer informed Jones on the stand that his legal team screwed up big time and might have revealed that he perjured himself. “Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years?” said attorney Mark Bankston. “And, when informed, did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protect it in any way … and that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn’t have messages about Sandy Hook.” Jones looked perplexed.
The data from the phone is going to be an enormous pain for Jones and his attorneys. While he has told the jury that he is “bankrupt,” the phone data reveals that Infowars was making up to $800,000 a day at one point; even after social-media sites stopped promoting his stuff, in 2018 the site was still raking in as much as $100,000 to $200,000 per day. Hours after the debacle was made public, Rolling Stone reported that the House committee investigating the Capitol riot intends to ask for the phone data. Last year, the committee subpoenaed Jones to hand over documents and sit for a deposition regarding his involvement in the “Stop the Steal” rally preceding the riot.
Jones wasn’t about to get upstaged by his lawyers, however, bringing plenty of showmanship of his own. Describing his programming as a way for his audience to become “awake and aware” to the ways of the world, Jones said, “You can’t be told about the Matrix; you have to see it.” (“Let’s slow down a little bit,” his lawyer replied.) He defended the health supplements funding his operation as far superior to the nootropic “crap you can buy at a gas station.” At one point, the judge patiently had to explain that what Jones saw on TV was hearsay. At another, Jones — who claimed earlier this year that he was too sick to attend a court trial — was handed a bottle of water by one of the parents. The judge also provided a plate of lozenges.