Lawyers for parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting are expected to present evidence on Alex Jones’s wealth to jurors in Texas on Friday as they seek punitive damages beyond the $4.1m they secured a day ago for the US conspiracy theorist’s falsehoods about the massacre.
A 12-person jury on Thursday said Jones must pay the parents $4.1m in compensatory damages for spreading conspiracy theories about the murder of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December 2012, which the rightwing broadcaster claimed was a hoax.
The verdict followed a two-week trial in Austin, Texas, where Jones’s radio show and webcast Infowars are based.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of slain six-year-old Jesse Lewis, are also seeking punitive damages, which can be awarded for what a jury believes was especially egregious behavior by a defendant, in addition to compensation.
A finance expert is set to testify on their behalf on Friday before jurors deliberate again.
Mark Bankston, a lawyer representing Heslin and Lewis, said after the compensatory award on Thursday: “With punitive damages still to be decided and multiple [other pending legal matters], it is clear that Mr. Jones’s time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.”
Heslin and Lewis testified that Jones’s followers harassed them for years in the false belief that the parents lied about their son’s death.
Jones sought to distance himself from the conspiracy theories during his testimony, saying he was sorry if he hurt the parents’ feelings while acknowledging that Sandy Hook was “100% real”.
Kyle Farrar, an attorney for the parents, urged jurors during closing arguments on Wednesday to hold Jones accountable for profiting off their son’s death.
Jones’s attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, told jurors on Wednesday that Infowars had reported “irresponsibly” on Sandy Hook but said his client was not liable for the actions of his viewers.
Jones’s company, Free Speech Systems LLC, declared bankruptcy last week. Jones said during a Monday broadcast that the filing will help the company stay on the air while it appeals.
The bankruptcy declaration paused a similar but much larger defamation suit brought by multiple Sandy Hook families in Connecticut where, as in Texas, he has already been found liable. He also faces another case brought by other parents in Texas.
Jones also could face perjury charges after one of the Austin trial’s most memorable episodes, when Bankston revealed to the defendant in the civil case that his legal team had “messed up” and provided “every text message” Jones had written in the past two years.
Those messages included texts that apparently contradicted Jones’s claims under oath in a prior deposition that he had nothing on his phone about the Sandy Hook massacre. Bankston said he notified Jones’s attorneys of the apparently erroneous leak, but the defense never took steps to label the communications as “privileged,” which could have kept them out of court.
Bankston on Thursday also said the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol had requested that he provide the panel with the texts from Jones, a prominent supporter of former president Donald Trump.
A pro-Trump mob carried out the Capitol attack, and the panel apparently wants to see what communications the ousted president’s team may have had with Jones.
Bankston said he intended to comply with the request unless a judge ordered he do otherwise, and there could be word on that as early as Friday.