Alex Jones has been ordered to pay $45.2m in punitive damages to the family of a Sandy Hook victim by a Texas jury, in addition to the $4.11m he already must pay them in compensatory damages.
The right-wing conspiracy theorist was not in court as the jury in Travis County, Texas, returned its unanimous verdict against him late on Friday afternoon.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse was among the 20 students and six adults killed in the mass shooting, sued Jones and his media company Infowars for the claims he has made that the massacre was a “false flag” operation and that the victims did not actually exist.
The jury’s decision came just one day after it found that Jones should pay $4.11m in compensatory damages to the family.
Mr Heslin and Ms Lewis had asked for $150m in compensatory damages, and the jury’s decision on punitive damages are designed to deter harmful behaviour.
Following the ruling, the family’s lawyer Mark Bankston asked the judge to make a ruling on whether he could release a copy of Jones’ phone data, which he revealed during the trial had been accidentally sent to him by Jones’ own legal team.
Mr Bankston has told the court that the January 6 committee and other law enforcement agencies have already asked him to hand over a copy of the data.
Lawyers for Jones said they wanted the judge to rule that Mr Bankston could not pass on the text messages and emails contained on the phone, but she refused to get involved in the situation.
“I am not standing between you (Bankston) and Congress, that is not my job and I am not going to do that. I am not getting in the middle of that fight,” said Judge Maya Guerra Gamble.
The judge went on to tell the court that the case had been a “challenging and exhausting few weeks for us all.”
During the final day of testimony, the lawyer for the family stunningly informed Jones that his own attorney had accidentally sent them two years of his text messages.
Jones claimed during discovery that he could not find any text messages relating to Sandy Hook on his phone but denied that he had lied under oath.
Before the jury returned its punitive damages verdict, a forensic economist had given evidence on Jones’ wealth.
Bernard Pettingill told the court that Jones began putting $11,000 a day into an alleged shell company after being found liable in the Sandy Hook cases.
He told the jury that his estimation was that Infowars made $64m last year and that Jones’ media company Free Speech Systems was worth between $135m and $270m.
“As much of a maverick that he is, as much of an outsider that he is, he is a very successful man,” Mr Pettingill said of Jones.
He went on to estimate that Jones’ personal worth was between $70m and $140m and that he had brought in $165m from September 2015 to December 2018.
Mr Pettingil told the court that Jones had withdrawn $61.9m from Free Speech Systems in 2021, the year in which the default judgment was made against him.