On Friday a jury in Texas, Alex Jones’ home state, unanimously decided to punish him, to the tune of $45.2 million, on top of the $4.1 million they had already ordered him to pay to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
The defamation lawsuit was about Jones’ regular rants, on his Infowars website, that Sandy Hook was a hoax, staged, that none of the 20 dead children, or their parents, were even real:
From Oct. 26, 2017: “I don’t know what really happened with Sandy Hook, folks. We looked at all sides, we played devil’s advocate from both sides, but I mean, it’s as phony as a three-dollar bill.”
From Jan. 13, 2015: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured.”
The road to a reckoning for Alex Jones has been as ugly and wild a ride as last week’s trial turned out to be, reports correspondent Martha Teichner.
Scarlett Lewis, Jesse’s mother, addressed Jones from the stand: “Jesse was real. I am a real mom … I know you know that; that’s the problem.”
Jesse’s father, Neil Heslin, described the harassment, including the death threats, that he and other Sandy Hook victims’ families have faced because Jones’ followers believed him. Heslin told the court, “I can’t even describe the last nine-and-a-half years of a living hell that I, and others, have had to endure.”
Jones testified, “I have done some things that are wrong, and I didn’t do it on purpose, and I apologize."
In one of several stunning moments in court last week, a suddenly contrite Alex Jones admitted he had lied. "Especially since I met the parents, and, uh, it’s 100% real,” he stated.
CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman told Teichner, “Alex Jones is exposed as a liar, and when Alex Jones then admits, admits that he knew that this happened at Sandy Hook and that it wasn’t a hoax, if that didn’t make you get the chills, I don’t know what would.”
Another of those moments: the revelation that Jones’ lawyer had mistakenly sent the other side years of text messages proving he lied – phone records Jones had claimed under oath didn’t exist. They’re now of interest to the January 6th Committee.
Klieman said, “There’s certainly the possibility that a prosecutor could look at the record in this case and say, ‘This is someone who committed perjury.’”
Teichner asked, “How much trouble is he really in?”
“I think Alex Jones is in a whole world of trouble,” she replied.
Like a sideshow to the drama inside, outside the courtroom Jones cried “witch hunt.”
“This is a kangaroo court,” he said. “This is a political action.”
And then, he cried poor. His company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy.
Forensic economist Bernard Pettingill testified that Jones and his company are actually worth between $135 and $270 million, and that he’s been shielding money in shell companies.
He told the jury, “Alex Jones, as much of a maverick he is, as much of an outsider that he is, he is a very successful man. … Everything flows to Alex Jones. I think Alex Jones made all the major decisions, and I think Alex Jones knows where the money is.”
Will Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin see the money they hoped would be a deterrent, would stop Alex Jones and others profiting from spreading lies? Probably not. Texas caps punitive damages. That $45 million is likely to be knocked way down.
And his lawyer stated that, with the trial over, Jones will continue his show. “Alex Jones will be on the air today, he’ll be on the air tomorrow, he’ll be on the air next week,” he said.
But Jones still faces other trials, in Texas, and in Connecticut, where lies may prove much more expensive.
“What a verdict really means is to speak the truth,” Klieman said. “Will it really change the tenor of the information age, the lies, the misinformation, the subterfuge, the falsity? I don’t think we know that yet, but at least it’s a start.”
Story produced by Mary Raffalli. Editor: Mike Levine.