The award, which the judge could reduce, came a day after a jury awarded $4.1 million in damages.
Jurors began deliberating at 12:30 a.m. Friday after Judge Maya Guerra Gamble reminded them that Lewis’ parents, Scarlett Lewis, and Jones were already liable for defamation and “inflicted emotional distress” in a default judgment against him. Neil Heslin.
In an emotional closing argument Friday, Lewis and Hessl’s attorney, Wesley Todd Ball, told the jury, “We’re asking you to send a very simple message, and that is, stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies. Please.”
Ball urged jurors to “prevent Alex Jones from doing this heinous thing again” and “stop others who might want to step into his shoes.”
Jones’ attorney, Federico Andino Reinal, argued for a much lower amount, suggesting that jurors multiply Jones’ intended earnings of $14,000 an hour and the 18 hours Jones spent talking about Sandy Hook by about an amount. A quarter of a million dollars.
Punitive damages are a form of punishment for a defendant’s conduct. Jones, head of the conspiracy media outlet Infowars, repeatedly lied about the Sandy Hook massacre. He sparked several defamation lawsuits and fueled conspiracy theories about the victims and their families. Subsequently, he admitted to the firing.
Jones said in his testimony that a jury award of just $2 million would destroy him financially. But jurors Friday morning heard testimony about Jones’ wealth from an economist, Bernard Bettingle, Jr., who estimated Jones’ net worth at between $135 million and $270 million.
Pettingill, Jr., who reviewed years of records for Jones and InfoWorld’s parent Free Speech Systems, said Jones used a series of shell companies to hide his money.
Jones used two large loans to make it appear he was broke when he really wasn’t, Bettingle, Jr. testified.
“Alex Jones knew where the money was, he knew where the money went, and he knew he was going to benefit from that money at the end of the day,” Bettingle, Jr. said.
After one of the jurors asked about the difference between Jones’ money and his company’s money, Bettingle, Jr. said, “You can’t separate Alex Jones from the companies. He is the companies.”
Jones “cashed in on his shtick,” he added, even suggesting that Jones could teach a college course on his techniques.
Jones’ fear-mongering rants at Infowars have, over the years, been paired with advertisements for supplemental materials, documentaries, and other products sold by Infowars. Bettingle, Jr. said he identified nine different companies owned by Jones and poured money into them.
“He’s a very successful man, he’s spread some hate speech and some misinformation, but he’s made a lot of money and he’s cashed in on it,” Bettingle, Jr. said on the stand. “My impression of him is that he didn’t ride the wave, he made the wave.”
Jones testified earlier in the week about his financial struggles after social media giants like Facebook and Twitter banned his content from their sites.
“I remember him saying that, but the records don’t reflect that,” Pettingill, Jr. said.
During closing arguments, Paul asserted that Jones had even more money hidden elsewhere and argued that $4.1 million was just a drop in Jones’ proverbial bucket. “He’s probably already made it back in donations” from fans, Paul said.
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