A jury in Austin, Texas, decided Friday that podcast host Alex Jones must pay $45.2 million in punitive damages relating to his false comments about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The damages are meant to deter him from similar conduct in the future.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Wesley Todd Ball, told jury members before their deliberation to “deter Alex Jones from ever doing this awfulness again” and “to deter others who may want to step into his shoes,” according to CNN.
Jones’s attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, claimed the sum should’ve been around $250,000, the outlet reported. He multiplied Jones’s purported earnings per hour of $14,000 and the 18 hours that he said his client talked about the 2012 shooting on his website, InfoWars.
The jury found Jones guilty of defamation Thursday and ordered him to pay more than $4 million to the parents of one of the shooting victims, six-year-old Jesse Lewis, much less than the $150 million the plaintiffs had originally asked for.
Jones had claimed repeatedly that the shooting was a hoax and that there were “crisis actors” on the scene. He apparently took back his words during the trial, apologizing and saying he believed the shooting, in which 26 students and teachers were killed, was “100% real.”
The plaintiffs, Jesse Lewis’s parents Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, appeared on the witness stand during the trial, telling the jury that Jones had made their life a “living hell” by his comments, as they received repeated threats.
“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Heslin said, according to CBS News.
“It’s fear for your life,” Lewis said, alluding to those making threats against her, the outlet reported. “You don’t know what they were going to do.”
Last year, a Texas judge found Jones liable for damages in three defamation lawsuits, entering default judgments after he didn’t give documents to the parents’ lawyers.