According to civil litigators, the nearly $1 billion fine that a Connecticut jury imposed on Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for declaring the Sandy Hook school shooting to be a fabrication is a historically high fine. Jones is unlikely to challenge the verdict.
According to former federal prosecutor and New York attorney Richard Signorelli, he might be compelled to lead a meager existence. He will constantly be under observation. He will constantly be pursued, and I don’t think he will ever be able to get away from the consequences of his wrongdoing.
Jones was sued for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the state’s unfair trade practices act by the families of eight victims of the 2012 school shooting as well as an FBI agent who responded to the scene. Jones had been preaching to his followers for years that the massacre was a hoax and the families were crisis actors.
A six-member jury awarded $15 awards ranging from $28.8 million to $120 million, totalling $965 million in compensatory damages, in a trial held only to assess damages because Jones had already been found responsible by a judge for withholding crucial evidence during discovery.
Civil litigators from all throughout the nation expressed their shock at the astounding amount.
According to Jesse Gessin, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law and a civil litigator, this judgement represents the greatest defamation award in American history. I was utterly, utterly startled. Simply unbelievable is the ruling.
And that’s not even all, he continued, adding that punitive damages will also probably be in the millions.
In mass tort cases or significant class actions, jury judgements can frequently total billions of dollars, but for a single plaintiff, this is a historically high damage award, according to Signorelli.
Jones launched a campaign to distort the massacre when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, killing 20 children and six teachers. According to testimony produced at trial, his misleading statements drew a large audience and helped him rake in millions of dollars in product sales.
In August at a different defamation trial for Jones in Texas, forensic economist Bernard Pettingill testified that the current market value of Jones and his firms ranges from $135 million to $270 million. His defense team disputed that amount.
NBC News contacted Jones’ lawyer for comment, but they did not respond.
According to Ryan ONeill, a defamation attorney and lecturer at Quinnipiac University School of Law, the sum ultimately paid out by Jones may be less.
After the trial is over, the judge can remit a portion of the verdict to bring it into line with what it judges to be appropriate damages, he added, giving the parties the opportunity to argue that the damages are excessive.
He remarked, “My impression is that it will be somewhat decreased, but that it will still be very high.” I cannot imagine a situation in which we would not be discussing hundreds of millions of dollars.
The sum might also be contested on appeal, which Jones’ counsel has previously stated he will seek, or included in Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy procedures.
Days before his Texas trial was set to begin, the media business declared bankruptcy in July.
Jones, who broadcast the decision live on his show on Wednesday, insulted the sum and laughed at the prospect of making any payments, claiming he couldn’t afford it.
It’s not going to happen. He later said as much on his show.
Jones hasn’t declared bankruptcy on a personal level. In order to stop this fraud and save Infowars, he pleaded with his audience to provide money to his business and purchase items from its store.
Legal experts indicated that even if Jones Company filed for bankruptcy, it’s not certain that the proceedings will have an impact on the verdict.
Any award based on an intentional unlawful act is normally not dischargeable in a bankruptcy case when you are proven to have committed the deliberate wrongful act, according to Signorelli.
Jones would have to disclose his financial information if it were determined that it was dischargeable, according to Gessin.
He warned that attempting to escape or conceal financial transactions during bankruptcy could result in him being charged with bankruptcy fraud and sentenced to jail time.
I don’t think he’ll be able to avoid this verdict, he remarked.
ONeill pointed out that Jones does have time. Prior to the conclusion of post-trial motions and all proceedings in the case, including hearings on punitive damages and attorneys’ fees, which would take at least six months, collections are unlikely to start.
Although the Sandy Hook families may have a long wait before receiving any compensation, Jones may face financial devastation as a result. said Signorelli.
The important aspect of this case, according to him, is that Alex Jones’ actions were seen to be so egregious that neither the court nor the plaintiffs’ lawyers will show him any mercy when they try to have this decision enforced.